Monday, April 7, 2014

Visiting Africa


How do you see South Africa.  It is  a beautiful place but not without its challenges.

Faces of Africa is a compilation of video and still photography of recent travels there

Enjoy the Africa video link here

Thank you all for your feedback, I am really glad you enjoyed it!



Saturday, March 8, 2014

Balance of Law

We live in our insular worlds; increasing pressure to not disturb the larger systems that are in place-- where does that leave us?

A challenging question for sure; it is difficult to take action against unfairness whether it is police misconduct or failing politicians, responding to the needs of poverty or giving more of ourselves.  Government structures are creating laws that increasingly restrict what public misconduct is as well.

But the world we live in is a complex one, technology for all its amenities has also resulted in the ability for computer smart programmers, to exploit average consumers credit cards; while most of the world love craigslist, how do we contend with the violent behaviors from predatory people? And we are suppose to be able to trust the politicians we put in office to act on our behalf and band together when they do not resulting in someone who does.

The balance of the law is not just about what we expect of the judicial system and legislators, but what our action result in.  In a world where things just keep increasing in size, how do you leverage help when there are so many burgeoning causes-- all of them with meaning and justification for action.  Overwhelmed we often won't disrupt the status quo.  But keep in mind this, the most exciting, meaningful and important events throughout history have been disruptive; disruptive technology, disruptive social moments, even in business there are opportunities that exist because of calculated disruptions that break the mold of what is tradition.

Organizations like policymicpolicemisconduct.net (The CATO Insitute), IPCC, Harvard scientist converting energy into energy, Pew Research, and thousands more mark the importnace of individual actions; more  importantly the power of crowd sourcing-- something we are part of but don't often use.  We as individuals have the power like never before to assemble in an interconnected philosophic way, mount our ideas and beliefs and change the world.  It does not always work out with the ease and simplicity we would like it to, sometimes we can even question why bother; but in the end, we have moved the needle across the arch that bends towards justice.  We as individuals are the balance of the law.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Boston's Finest B & E

It's 3:03 a.m. and Boston's Finest(Estb. 1854) has just finished doing reconnaissance and dusting my place for finger prints.
After a late night B & E, I placed a call to my local 911. Before long, and after establishing that my event is a non-critical emergency, the 911 operator dispatches Boston's Blue to my address. Within 30 minutes, I receive a call that they are down stairs waiting. An officer responds, followed by a sergeant and a detective.
Every day officers from the Boston Police Department (BPD) make their way to residents and citizens in need of their assistance. And though it is not my wish to ever have to call them for any type of emergency, it is nice to know that they are there and on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week and 365 days out of the year. Wait... lets make that 425 days of the year, if you calculate officers over time, take away from family time and just plain time to contribute to making our lives a little more comfortable.
Have you ever stopped to think what The City would be like without them. How much more insecure would you feel? Think about it. No one to call during the Marathon emergency, no direction during special events, no response to emergencies such as a violent crime, and no one to respond to the smaller emergencies. No one to intervene in domestic violence, in general no one to offer a safer more secure City.
Granted the BPD is not perfect, but I have to acknowledge the fact that neither am I; so it is important to acknowledge what we appreciate about them when our opportunity comes.
Thank you for standing up to the criminals that are not concerned about the quality of life most people want for their children; thank you for stopping by the schools and talking to the students to create a better relationship with students and letting them know that you are there to help them first, not threaten them; thank you for being considerate and allowing the ambulances to make their way during an emergency; thank you for getting out of bed to dust for fingerprints because someone broke into my house; thank you for being approachable and thank you for not disliking me because another citizen was a jerk and fucked up your day.
Your job is a tough one on many levels; from salary restrictions and cutbacks to risking your life and everything between those ends of the spectrum; office politics, law suits, lies and challenges towards advancement; and the resources you need will not always be at your disposal-- you try harder nonetheless. I appreciate everything you do right, every time you do the right thing and every time you try to do that.
From us, the residents of Boston who don't take time to thank you enough. Thank You. Please continue to do your best and I will continue to acknowledge why we should be thankful you are here.
I say hello every time I pass you even if I don't know you; I may say have a great day, just because I don't think anyone else has and perhaps that is enough to make a difference in your day. I hope the result is that you might make things a bit easier on someone else-- pay it forward.
You put in a lot of hours and a lot of years, but it does not go without thanks for what you add to the City, and the people who live here-- we are in need of your service.
After a total of about 3 hours, all of the officers from Boston's Finest have left the crime scene in my home. My home has returned to the secure feeling place it was at one time, despite the impact of the criminal who broke in, knowing that Boston's Finest is not too far away. Though every mystery will not be solved, every criminal will not be caught; justice will not always be served, you still make a difference.
In their wake (the visitors in Blue), advise, good conversation, assurance, and insights that reinforce my confidence in their ability to carry our their job. They leave me with a bit more appreciation then before they arrived. They are good people, not just cops.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Victims and Vigilance Who is to Blame

This is just a surface analysis of the Trayvon Martin case.  While it provides some detailed references and questions, it is by no means comprehensive.  It is simply to state that each person with an opinion should do some research and think more critically about the circumstances surrounding this case.  Arguments can be made for both sides; it is a troubling case that will be studied for years to come.


There is a troubling culture in the United States-- violence.  From the outsiders perspective, the disparity in the level of imprisonment in the U.S. outweighs that of any developed nation.  The United States not only has the most prisoners among any developed nation, the United States has the highest prison population in the world (2009 International Studies for Prison Studies) with over 2 million individuals incarcerated.  So while we might not be able to compete for low wages in the functioning part of society, our prison population quite possibly offsets that factor through privatization of the prison systems.  Is there something wrong with this association?  Yes.

Who was following whom?  Who was carrying a gun?  Who ignored the police urging that he stay in his car?  Who thought that the other was one of "them," someone about to get a away with something? (Southern Poverty Law Review)

Currently with the debate regarding George Zimmerman acquittal of murder and or/ manslaughter of Travyon Martin, United States is once again facing its shadow that prevails over its glory-- events which occurred on the night of February 26, 2012.

Despite the strong bias one might feel in this case, it is important to look more deeply at some facts and issues surrounding this case.  It is the nature of humans especially in the U.S. to look only at what comes out in the news and other media sources; we also listen to public figureheads that are not quite as reliable as we would like them to be.  In situations such as this it is important to delve more deeply into the matter to arrive at some deductions and conclusions that offer a more accurate and reliable data conclusion.
At first glance it can be troubling to see the results of this Travon/ Zimmerman case, but there are some important factors and legal aspects to consider to think more critically.  So helpful at doing some surface analysis I considered the following:

  1. defining the terms of the accusations in the case
  2. understanding more about the case itself 
  3. listening to the 911 call recordings
  4. considering the timing of events
  5. assessing the factors in the causes of action
  6. reviewing the explanation of the laws regarding manslaughter and second degree murder

More alarming is the disproportionate number of people who are Black or Hispanic where the conviction rates and sentencing are off the chart when compared to their white counterparts.  Some data suggests that

Paul Barret of Business Weeks Politics and Policy laid out valid points regarding the case the first of which is that Zimmerman is guilty for pursuing his victim when he should have remained in his car as advised by law enforcement.  Had Zimmerman remained in his vehicle, the fact is Trayvon Martin would likely still be alive.


  • According to the Sentencing Project's website, the rate of incarceration for white Connecticut residents in 2005 was 211 per 100,000 people; for black residents it was 2,532 per 100,000. 

Beyond that we must look at the law however fair or unfair it might appear.  Issues that would come up causing a verdict against plaintiff would be adequate provocation; withdrawal, .  Self defense is the easy low hanging fruit that we as observers would gnaw away at, but would our assessment be accurate?  From a bias perspective it is easy to say that a man with a gun could not possibly be defending himself against a teenage boy with no weapon; however, one the act of violence is initiated several other factors come into consideration.  Did the defendant attempt to remove himself from harm, or did Trayvon attempt to remove himself from harm recognizing that Zimmerman was drawing a weapon.  Additionally did his actions (the defendant) have any other purpose?  If Trayvon was intimidated (which is almost impossible to determine), he could easily have murdered Zimmerman if he felt his life were in jeopardy. 

Murder requires unlawful killing with "malice aforethought" (i.e., intent to kill, knowledge of death or unreasonably high risk of injury will result / “depraved heart”, or intent to commit a felony).   While Zimmerman could be culpable based on his intention of following the victim; it is difficult to state that his intent, based on his conversation with the 911 operator, was to "kill or commit a felony".  Under the "Substantial Step", penal code, Zimmermans decision to get out of his car and follow Martin, could be punishable by law if his intent was to commit a crime of murder.  The challenge to this fact is that he called the police, an action an individual with criminal intent would not likely carry out, unless she/ he had planned out such a crime.

Actus reus and mens rea both come into play here (i.e. the physical portion of the crime and the mental portion of the crime).  When Zimmerman got out of his vehicle we cannot with absolution determine that he made a mental decision to attack and kill Martin.  His physical behavior was not aggressive nor was his mental behavior that of someone who intended to kill an individual as mentioned above, it is not likely that one would call the police while intending to commit the crime of murder (which would essential seal their fate). 

What Does "...up to no good." Mean
There is much to be said however regarding Zimmerman's conversation with the 911 operator.  For example the language "I think he is up to no good", followed by "these assholes, they always get away." suggest a turning point in Zimmerman's behavior, from observer, to stalker.  Perhaps the prosecutors should have spent more time considering this angle.  At this point he is making a conscious decision to exercise prejudice in his actions.

What were Zimmerman's Actions 
Did Zimmerman use his gun to protect himself because of a perceived threat, or was he in control of his actions?  Because so little is truly understood about Zimmerman's actions, we cannot say whether he lost control of his abilities regarding he being the attacker (initiating the conflict) or the victim (i.e. Martin initiated the attack).  This makes this case more challenging.  The autopsy should have revealed more in terms of the struggle itself.

Drugs

THC levels and whatever amount of marijuana found in Martin's system or on his person are by no means rationale for mind altering responses.  

The 911 Recordings
If you listen to the 911 Operator recordings, you hear concerned residents calling (wikipedia files) in the event from where they stand, hear, and see, but you cannot conclusively say that the individual shouting for help is Trayvon Martin or Zimmerman, before hearing the assumed shot in the background.  Again, none of the witnesses stated that they actually saw a gun, but we can draw certain conclusions and testimony and collected evidence answers the weapons possession issue.  Law enforcement officers were also negligent for sending narcotics investigators rather than detectives to provide a more accurate assessment of the circumstances.  This would clearly work in Zimmerman's favor.  

The autopsy states that the gun was between 1-18 inches from Trayvon's chest.  There is a significant difference in this research.  One's actions at one 1 inch suggest a very different action that one's potential actions at 18 inches.  At 18 inches, the opportunity to offer a warning from a pursuant are much more likely to deter that pursuant if you have a gun.  At a range of one inch, it could be argued that there was a struggle and the firing of the gun was a result of that struggle.

The conversation Mr. Martin was having with his girlfriend moments before his death suggest that she was advising him to run, while simultaneously Zimmerman was speaking with police that Martin was on the run.  These two pieces of information clearly have very differing perspectives on what was occurring.  For Mr. Martin, he was being pursued and felt threatened by Zimmerman, immediate grounds for self defense, therefore Martin could have been vindicated in his response to Zimmerman approaching him.  Attacking Zimmerman would be completely justified.  While Zimmerman (a perceived assailant) was monitoring Martin's activity.  Did Zimmerman have a right to stalk, Martin?  Which would be Martin's perspective if he 1) understood the law and 2) was still alive. 


These events surrounding Trayvon Martin should really force and encourage all citizens to look at the disparities rather than solely the event itself.  If in fact Trayvon Martin killing should have been resulted in the conviction of Zimmerman's for manslaughter and second degree murder, but did not; we need to arrest our law; look at what revisions mandate change; and accommodate a more balanced system that is truly based on one's actions.  


Under the law, Zimmerman should never have left his vehicle; the 911 operator should have given firm instructions for Zimmerman to remain in his vehicle rather than state that "...you don't need to do that..."; Fact, Zimmerman pulled a gun and a trigger, but that in itself is not a crime if you are "defending yourself" against a life threatening confrontation; and prejudice is not enough to convict someone of a murder.  Yet, it is Zimmerman's perception that a threat was real, his belief that "those people always get away" that resulted in Trayvon Martin's death.  


One thing is certain, taking one's life must be based on more than looking like a suspicious character.  But at the same time we cannot overwhelmingly state, beyond a shadow of a doubt that George Zimmerman is guilty.  It is difficult to reconcile this but it is something that should force us to assess the legal system which allows an individual to walk away with complete freedom after taking another persons life based on perception. 


Condolences to the family as no persons child should leave this planet before their parents.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Amazing Life Amazing People

It was 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon on a late Spring day.  Having gotten up early to do some gardening, much of the day got away from me.  It was about this time that I was feeling like I needed to be doing something else.  I didn't just want to go for a drive but I was still lost... almost lacking focus.

I fired up the Harley Davidson VROD, having decided that I would take a quick spin since it was so nice outside.  Still, I wasn't sure where it was taking me.  Initially I planned on going to the grocery store to get some multi-grain bread.  While Trader Joes has my favorite bread, they don't have many of my other favorites (I try to stay away from processed foods).

This motorcycle transforms your riding experience.  You instantly become part of a social group that makes your riding experience exponentially different than bragging about what bike you are riding; it is about what experience you are living-- more like a brotherhood.  Your people experience increases significantly.  You develop a since of pride in owning a Harley.  My friends in Estonia have a strong sense of national pride and it is one of the things that makes them so amazing to me (Allan and Karoli).  And this is the heart of this article.

What makes my life so amazing is not what I have done, in fact I lead a very ordinary live; my experiences are exceptional, and exceptional experiences become what they become because of what I want out of those experiences.  Secondly, the people I meet are amazing not because of who they are (meaning their social status) or what they have, but because of what they want out of life.  Zach C. I met during his short and simple visit in Boston, but he had a lasting impact on me as a result of our discussion about decisions regarding college, professional writing experiences, social networks and technology.  Lisa is a woman I met from Canada who moved to Australia.  She is amazing in so many ways; from the very natural way she inspires me to write to her insights into my being, she seems to understand things about me no one else does.  Andre and Andria befriended me and have become life long friends after talking about my book Seed (still in the works).  Andria's background directly relates to the topic of my writing interests.  Lise from Quebec has an exceptional gift of kindness and has invited me to come and visit with her and her husband.  They are an extraordinary couple and seeing them together elevates the joy in my heart-- there relationship is magical yet simple.  David who is an English specialist from Switzerland has chosen to return for another visit.  David also dances competitively (he is quite good).  And Amanda and Mark, whom I visited with last summer opened their home and hearts each is a master in their fields of photography and sculpture (respectively).

I have made friends with people all around the world.  Today was am exception on a local level.

Four years ago I met Mario after purchasing a sailboat to sail from Boston to Cape Cod, on my first solo open water journey.  No instructions just faith, research for what I needed.  Prior to making the full trip, I connected with Mario after searching for an alternative motor for my sailboat on Craigslist.  Mario provided  a motor I needed to make the trip safe.  Upon arriving in Hull, MA, Mario greeted me with kindness and as promised, a motor.  Harry was a long time friend of Mario's and offered a battery that I needed, further ensuring safe travels.  So my motorcycle ride took me across Boston, into Cambridge, back to Boston and then out to Wallaston Beach in Quincy, then to Hingham and finally to Hull, where I would be reacquainted with Mario after passing his house-- four years after our initially meeting.

Having passed his house, I turned around noticing two boats in the driveway.  That had to be him I thought.  To my pleasant surprise, Mario was working on his boat.  We greeted each other as old friends might.  His hands soiled with grease and dirt from working on the motor, firmly gripped my own, it was a comforting familiarity.  We began talking about sailing, motorcycles and Craigslist- as friends would.

Each of the persons I have just spoken of reflect something in me that is somewhat of a quest.  Perhaps it is a quest to get the most out of life, possibly to answer questions I have not been able to answer myself, or perhaps it is to engage with people who seem to make my life more amazing just by knowing them.  Their kindness, positive energy and personal journeys speak volumes of what I seek myself.  In this respect I suppose we are very much the same.  We all had a journey, a story to share and a desire to listen for something new.