Monday, March 30, 2015

The Jew's Bargain

I have been going through the Internet Archive, which is a wonderful resource: books, movies, old radio programs. I have been going through sections of children’s books, most from the nineteenth century.

A Picture-Book of Merry Tales is a volume I looked at. Chapter Ten, “How Owlglass sells his Horse to a Jew, and on what Terms,” is blatantly anti-semitic; a cruel joke with a punchline, no less. The 1860 book, from a British publisher, reminds those of us with modern sensibilities how open racism and hatred was. I am sure that the attitudes in this story were repeated many times and in many publications over the decades. I am also sure that it is the callousness of intolerance represented by this story that had its flashpoint when the Nazi regime sent millions of Jews to their deaths.

I am not blaming the Internet Archive. It is important to preserve this sort of thing to understand the ultimate consequences of bigotry.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Roy’s revenge — best served cold

A couple of weeks ago a bouncer at a Salt Lake City bar interceded when he saw two intoxicated young men harassing a young woman. He told the men to stop, and leave the bar. The men attacked him, and two of their buddies joined in. The bouncer was bounced, beaten and taken to a hospital. The next day security footage from outside the bar showed the four young men leaving, and television news reporters asked anyone who knew the guys to call the police.

I never heard if anyone turned them in. I also wonder about the bouncer, and how he is faring. If the bouncer is like my old friend, Roy B., perhaps he will wait until he feels better and go looking for those who gave him the beating. I don't like it when people gang up on a victim. Three or four is a wolfpack, and if drunk, that many usually lose control. Frankly, the bouncer is lucky to be alive.

This is an edited 2007 posting about my friend Roy. He handled a beating and ultimately handled the ones who beat him.

I spent my time as a draftee in an artillery unit stationed near Nürnberg, Germany, in 1967-68.

Roy B. was one of the guys in Charlie Battery. Roy, along with three other guys and I had been in the Army together since day one, when we entered Basic Training at Fort Lewis, Washington, on December 1, 1966. Roy was a tall, lanky guy with a baby face and shock of black hair. I wondered if he had Native American ancestors. He sat down across from me in the mess hall for our first breakfast as trainees. For a slim guy he ate a lot.

Flashing forward to our time in Germany and Charlie Battery. Roy was one of those guys who just didn't seem to fit in. We didn't use the word “hippie” much to describe people in our unit, but Roy probably qualified. He had a very laid back, “Hey, man,” kind of demeanor. Distracted. Peaceful even. Usually.

When Roy and I were new to the ammo section of the battery we were putting boxes of rifle ammunition into a bunker in the battalion ammo dump. Roy came walking up with a box of ammo in his arms and a lit cigarette in his mouth. Our sergeant had the cigarette out of Roy’s mouth and crushed into the dirt in less time than it takes to tell the tale. He also blistered Roy with profanity.

A few months later Roy was powder man during a training exercise. All six of our 155mm self-propelled howitzers were in the field, preparing to fire. The gunpowder was in bags, sewed together in a line of several bags. Depending on the distance of a target a specific charge was called for. If it was a “charge seven,” then excess bags were cut off the string and the first seven bags were inserted into the gun for firing. The powder man, in this case Roy B., would run the excess powder bags back about 100 meters, then drop them into a hole he’d dug for that purpose. At the end of the exercise the excess powder was set on fire and burned up. During this particular exercise a charge seven was called for, and Roy did his job, running the powder back to the hole. There were six powder men, one per gun. But there was only one safety officer, a second lieutenant, who ran from gun to gun, setting down a level set to the proper quadrant and deflection on the breech block of each weapon. During this incident the safety officer screwed up, as did the gunner. The gunner reversed the coordinates, and the safety officer didn't check that breech block with his level. Roy told me later the tube of the gun was pointed in a different direction from the other guns. When the fire order was given, gun number 6, Roy's gun, had its shell explode near an ammo dump several miles away. A German family was outside the fence surrounding the site, enjoying a picnic in the woods. The shell burst near them, but luckily no one was killed, nor did it hit the ammo dump, averting a real major catastrophe.

The incident was serious enough that the general in charge of our division was flown in by helicopter, and our battery commander, first sergeant, chief of firing battery, gunner, safety officer, and Roy, stood in a line at attention while they were questioned. When the general got to Roy to ask why if he saw his gun pointed in the wrong direction he didn't call cease fire Roy’s answer was, “Hey, sir, I didn't think I could snitch out no officers.”

There were punishments handed down, and having this incident in their files might have stopped the forward progress of the officers and non-coms involved. Roy, being the low man on the totem pole, was fined a sum and confined to barracks for two weeks, after which he was transferred to another battery.

A few months later Roy was in downtown Nürnberg and was jumped by three G.I.s out to rob somebody. They beat him with a two-by-four and stole his wallet. Roy ended up in the hospital, and when he was sufficiently recovered, reported back to duty with a turban of bandages on his head. His shock of thick black hair stuck out in various places through the turban so he was dubbed Porkypine. Roy was no help to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), investigating the incident. He said he didn’t remember who mugged him, or their faces.

Ah, but he did. When he was better he went downtown, and found his attackers. He was armed with a bicycle chain and he put a couple of the muggers in the hospital. The guys he beat apparently never told the CID who attacked them, although it was common knowledge to us. I asked Roy what happened and all he said was, “Hey, man. Just some payback.”

I last saw Roy when we were all called to that summer camp in California in 1970. I asked Roy what he was doing as a civilian and he said, “Oh, I'm living around, in the park, crashing on peoples' couches. You know.” No, I didn't know, but hey, man, that was just Roy, and as I knew by then, he could take care of himself.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Good cop, bad cop

I wrote this posting in 2009. It is about a cop who committed sexual offenses under the color of his authority, then in a bizarre twist of fate, became something of a hero when a mall shooting broke out. The publicity he got from the hero status made him recognizable to his victims, and then he became a criminal in a cop suit.

In the past few months we have seen lots of stories about police officers, most of them negative. Those stories remind us that police officers are human, just like the rest of the society they are supposed to be protecting and serving. But we have to hold them to a higher standard. There is no other way to deal with people who have that power and that authority built into their jobs and uniforms. They cannot use the uniform and the authority to be thieves, bullies, murderers...or sex criminals.

I have tried following up on Hammond’s story, but it seems to stop around the time he went to jail for his sex crimes. He had already resigned from the police force when he was convicted.

 Ken Hammond, hero, 2007

Former police officer Kenneth Hammond has seen the highest highs: being honored as a hero for helping prevent further killings as a killer stalked Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, killing five people and injuring four. Hammond was off-duty, having dinner with his wife, when he heard shots. When the Salt Lake Police swat team arrived Hammond shouted at them he was an off-duty officer. Even though the shooter was killed by a sergeant of the Salt Lake Police, Hammond, a member of the nearby Ogden Police Department, was touted as a hero, paraded before the media, given honors.

Hammond also knows the lows. Because of the publicity a woman came forward and said that when she was 17 she had performed oral sex on him. According to a story in the June 1, 2009 Salt Lake Tribune, he had met her two years before the Trolley Square shootings while he investigated a noise complaint. He had asked for her phone number, called her and returned later that night. She was with an 18-year-old woman, and while he fondled the 18-year-old the 17-year-old performed oral sex. According to the report he had also stopped the younger woman a couple of times on the road, once while she was drinking, but he let her go. When she saw him on the news she made her complaint.

Good cops, bad cops. At the time Hammond committed the alleged offense of having sex with an underage person he was 32, and had taken an oath to protect the public, not take advantage. Across the country some police have used their power and status for sexual purposes. Sometimes like Hammond they're caught and discharged, sometimes they're never caught.

What must've run through Hammond's mind when he succumbed to temptation? I'm guessing he never thought he'd be paying for it by going to jail for 90 days, losing his job, and having the media remind the public that this once-hero is now just another horny guy taking advantage of a situation so he could get sex.

Ken Hammond, prisoner, 2009

What a sad story all the way around. Young married father loses job because of his own behavior. His wife, who works as a dispatcher for the same police department, must be going through hell. And what to tell their kid when he's old enough, that his dad threw away his career in law enforcement for a blow job?

Good cop, bad cop=same cop.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Granny got her garters on

Garters are a thing of the past, except as accoutrements of sexy lingerie. Years ago, when women’s underthings were called “unmentionables,” pictures of women showing stockings and garters were confined to pin-ups, men’s magazines, and even photos passed around in locker rooms. Nowadays anyone can see the real thing by just walking past the Victoria’s Secret window at the local shopping mall. I grew up when those “unmentionables” were still part of everyday attire. I am older, more jaded, but there is still something of the forbidden thrill that came with catching a glimpse of them in everyday use: a women stepping out of a car; an errant breeze riffling the hem of a skirt, showing nylon tops. Those moments were rare but memorable for me.

I collected these vintage photos from various sites around the Internet. They seem quaint now, but at one time they quickened the pulses of our grandfathers.