Book Review:  Righting A Wrong

Publication date:  October 2019

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

The last time I reviewed a John Grisham book – The Reckoning – I gave it three out of four Bookskunks.

I also gave three out of four skunks to the Grisham book I reviewed before that:  Camino Island.

So you’d have good reason to wonder why I keep reading John Grisham books.

Here’s the reason:

Grisham’s latest, The Guardians.

Everything’s coming up roses for this one!

Grisham chose a subject I’m hugely interested in – the exoneration of people wrongly imprisoned.

You might have read or seen the stories, like this one:

Washington Post (2)

The length of time wrongly convicted men and women spend in prisons is staggering, and it happens because somewhere, someone along the line from arrest to conviction made a mistake or lied.  Sometimes multiple people make mistakes or lie.  As Grisham puts it,

“This can be a dirty business.  We are forced to deal with witnesses who have lied, police who have fabricated evidence, experts who have misled juries, and prosecutors who have suborned perjury.”

From Grisham’s point of view, there are no mistakes, only lies.

Lies that put innocent people behind bars, many of them on death row.

handsIn The Guardians, the “we” in the above quote is first-person narrator Cullen Post, a lawyer and one of three people that comprise the Guardians, a non-profit committed to freeing the wrongly convicted, or “innocence cases.”  The plot concerns Post investigating a murder and the man, Quincy Miller, convicted for it 22 years ago – 22 years spent in prison for a crime that the Guardians believe Miller didn’t commit.

Post spends his time driving endless miles to talk to cops, snitches, and past witnesses – or trying to talk to them – and dealing with a prosecutor who, according to Post:

“Instead of pursuing the lofty goal of finding the truth and unraveling an injustice, he attacks me because I’m trying to prove him wrong and exonerate and innocent man.”

Post also spends his time meeting with clients in various prisons, his descriptions of which are unfailingly grim:

arns on bars“Prison is a nightmare for those who deserve it.  For those who don’t, it is a daily struggle to maintain some level of sanity.  For those who suddenly learn that there is proof of their innocence yet they remain locked up, the situation is literally maddening.”

And Post spends a lot of time waiting – for the justice system to work, for juries to vote, for judges to decide:

“Waiting is one of the hazards in this business.  I’ve seen a dozen courts sit on cases involving innocent men as if time doesn’t matter, and I’ve wished a hundred times that some pompous judge could be forced to spend a weekend in jail.  Just three nights, and it would do wonders for his work ethic.”

Grisham weaves a tangled web, but he wrote this book so well that the storyline and multiple characters are easy to follow.  You can’t help but cheer for Post and the Guardians team, and want them to win Quincy Miller’s freedom.

But will they?

And since I believe that Grisham did his homework on this one and knows what he’s Jail-cell-generictalking about – you can’t help but curse our justice system when it allows the innocent to pay for the guilty.

And the guilty free to offend again.

I highly recommend The Guardians.

And I strongly encourage you to get acquainted with the nonprofit organizations that are committed to doing what the Guardians do:  correct the injustice of wrongful convictions that occur in the U.S. Judicial system.

A good place to start is A-JustCause.com, which lists a number of those organizations (click the Affiliates tab on the home page).  You can read some success stories, and maybe donate some money so they can keep doing this important work.

After all, you might need their help one day, just like this innocent man did:

Last Image (2)

This Event Ends Today – But The Hate Doesn’t End

No one can doubt that hate is a growing trend in our country:

NY Times (2)

USA TOday (2)

NPR (2)

Now, even a zoo is getting in on the hate:

Zoo_01 (2)

Yes, the San Antonio zoo is celebrating Valentine’s Day by inviting you to participate in its first-ever “Cry Me a Cockroach” event.

I’ll let the zoo tell you in its own words:

Zoo_02 (2)

The live-streaming they’re referring to is just a quick scroll down the page, where for now you see their cockroach cam:

Livestream (2)

But today – Valentine’s Day – just stay tuned, and you can watch this new and sickening outlet for hate…

As your live cockroach or dead rodent, named after your ex, is devoured by San Antonio Zoo animals:

“OK, kids!  It’s time to watch that horrible, nasty cockroach we named after your daddy get killed and eaten!”

Mom

Ticket Presale Starts February 12 – Today!

A full-page ad in a newspaper catches the eye.

But this full-page ad in the February 9 San Diego Union-Tribune?

Both eyes:

Full Page (2) Fixed
Actual size, 11” x 23”.

OK – I should have said my less-than-perfect ad replication, since my scanner couldn’t take it all in, in one pass.

And who could take in all this news?

The Rolling Stones are coming to San Diego!

In fact, their “No Filter Tour” kicks off in San Diego on May 8!

Presale tickets go on sale TODAY, February 12, at 10am, and the take-what’s-left tickets on February 14.

As I marveled at the full-page ad, something else caught my eye:

Full Page (2) with arrow Fixed

The Stones’ proudly sole sponsor:

Alliance for Lifetime Income.

There’s just something so ironic about that sponsor:

That the Rolling Stones, now all in their mid-70s, are sponsored by a company whose website states:

Alliance (2)

Could there be any people less likely to “outlive their retirement income” than the Rolling Stones?

  • Mick Jagger 2020 estimated net worth: $300 million
  • Keith Richards 2020 estimated net worth: $400 million
  • Ronnie Wood 2020 estimated net worth: $100 million
  • Charlie Watts 2020 estimated net worth: $170 million

The sponsor, of course, is a nod to the Stones’ concert attendees, many of whose ages may be similar to the Stones’ but whose retirement incomes certainly aren’t.

On the Alliance website, the executive director states,

Rolling-Stones-2019-Tour-Logo-Alliance“With their outstanding success in the 21st century and creative forward thinking, the Stones have set an example for all of us by reimagining and redefining the exciting future they can create for themselves.”

Back in 1963, when the Stones cut their first single, I’m pretty sure they were not focused on “outstanding success in the 21st century,” “creative forward thinking” and setting “an example.”

I checked out TicketScalpers.com and No Filter Tour tickets come in lots of prices, but the VIP Front Row Seats tickets are selling for $5,031 each.

And where else would you want to see the Stones except from the front row?

So I say:

Hit that ticket presale at 10am THIS MORNING!

Dust off your tight leather pants and get down with some major Stones attitude!

Spend the money!

And as for outliving your retirement income, well…

You

A Heads-Up To 2020 Voters:

I’m a writer, and I find it mostly easy to imagine conversations – for others, and for myself.

Sometimes I imagine having a conversation with a Trump supporter.

And since it’s my imagined conversation, I’ll chose to have it with a male adult Trump supporter.

I’ll call him “Bob.”  Bob has a wife, and they have two teenage daughters.

Here goes:

Me:  Bob, you’re a Trump supporter, correct?

Bob:  Yes, I voted for Trump in 2016 and I’ll vote for him in November.man woman talking cropped

Me:  OK.  Now, do you recall, over the past several years, the negative things Trump has said about women?

Bob:  Not particularly.

Me:  Then how about if I recall an example?

Bob:  OK, I guess.

Me:  In 2018, referring to a woman who used to work for him, Trump said she was  “a crazed, crying lowlife” and a “dog.”

Bob:  And…so?

Me:  I was wondering if you’d like it if Trump called your wife a “a crazed, crying lowlife” and a “dog”?  Or your daughters?  Would it be OK if Trump called your daughters “crazed, crying lowlifes” and “dogs”?

Bob:  Oh.  OK, no.

Me:  How about if Trump said this about your wife or daughters:  “Does she have a good body?  No.  Does she have a fat ass?  Absolutely.”  Would that be alright?

man woman talking cropped reversedBob:  No.

Me:  OK, Bob, last example.  Suppose Trump said this about your wife or daughters:  “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

Bob (long pause):  Is there a point to this?

Me:  Yes.  I’m wondering why it wouldn’t be OK for Trump to make these statements about your wife and daughters, but you’re fine with him saying these things – and worse – about other women?

Bob:  I didn’t say I was fine with it.

Me:  But you’re going to vote for him, right?

Bob:  Yes.

End of my imaginary – though I think real enough – conversation.

I culled the above Trump insults from this article:

61 Insults (2)

Articles about Trump’s verbal abuse of women are easy to find, like this one:

Insults Black Female Reporters (2)

And this one:

Nasty (2)

And back in 2017 the Brits got in on the act with this article:

Brits (2)

But the Brits are behind the times; just think of all the demeaning things he’s said about women since then – this one, for example:

Congresswomn (2)

It’s so obvious to me that Trump is a misogynist:

misogynist cropped larger

He hates women.

He likes to fuck women, but he hates women.

What I can’t find are articles that tell me why.

I thought I might find articles written by or quoting experts, but no – it’s widely that accepted no ethical psychiatrist or psychologist would speak publicly about Trump’s mental state, having never had Trump as a patient.

And of course, if they did have Trump as a patient, those conversations would be kept private due to patient/doctor privilege.

So I’ll jump in and offer my opinion on why Trump hates women.

Here she is:

Mary-Anne-Macleod-Trump-e1518458118871

Mary MacLeod Trump, his mother.

Mary grew up poor, crammed into a two-bedroom rented cottage with her parents and 10 siblings.

Homes in the community were considered “indescribably filthy” and characterized by “human wretchedness.”

She had less than a high school education.

But worst of all…

She was an immigrant.

And Trump has made his feelings clear about immigrants:

Hates Immigrants (2)

Mary was poor, Scottish immigrant who spoke English with an accent.  She came to this country in 1929 when she was 17, and worked as a maid before marrying Trump’s father.

A maid.  Sometimes called a “domestic.”  Or, a “servant.”

Trump is ashamed of his mother’s – and therefor his – “lowly” roots.

When you feel ashamed of someone, and because of someone, it can be easy to hate them.

Trump hates his mother.

And he extends that hate to all women.

Oh, I know – he’s been married three times, and considers himself the greatest cocksman of all time…

cocksman_01 cropped larger

But he hates women.

I did find one article with a headline that matched my theory – it’s the first image at the top.

The article is thoughtful and well-written, but nowhere is there any mention of Trump’s mother.

So, the author had his theory, and I have mine.

And I’ll stand by my theory.

But…why have a theory?

Why write about “Trump hates women” at all?

here's why_01 cropped

Because, come November, I want his female supporters to remember, while he’s courting them for their vote…

He hates them.

And I want Trump’s male supporters to remember that every time Trump demeans a woman…

He’s also talking about their wives…

And their daughters.

Respect women (2)

Last image (2)

Felons? These Beloved Icons?

When we hear the term “price fixing” it’s usually associated with high-profile items:  prescription drugs, computers, air travel.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) issues a news release like this one:

Pharma (2)

And this one:

Apple (2)

And this one:

Airline (2)

Names are named, fines are fined, and sometimes heads – metaphorically – will roll.

So, pharma, airlines, computers – all high profile.

But these guys?

bumble bee cropped star cropped smaller.png chicken cropped larger.jpg

The canned tuna people?  As in, the canned tuna I, and millions of others, have in our cupboards?

The canned tuna that, combined with mayo and celery, is the foundation for my beloved tuna fish sandwiches?

Yes, the very same.

And it turns out, this canned tuna price fixing is very high profile, too.

But, briefly – what is price fixing?  The Federal Trade Commission explains it far better than I could:

FTC (2).jpg

Price fixing:  Hurts consumers, and profits the companies doing the price fixing.

Unless they get caught.

catching croppedAnd the above-pictured canned tuna companies – Bumble Bee, StarKist and Chicken of the Sea – all got caught.

This hit close to home – my home – both because I’m a canned tuna consumer, and the tuna industry is an integral part of San Diego’s history.  Back in the 1920s, San Diego was known as the “tuna capital of the Pacific.”

By 1940, 95% of packed tuna was canned right here.

In the 1970s, tuna was San Diego’s third-largest industry, employing some 40,000 San Diegans in catching, canning and marketing the product.  Two of the three big tuna tuna-boats-once-lined-the-embarcaderocanning companies were based here, and the waterfront was home to four canneries and scores of fishing boats.

The industry has mostly vanished, but Bumble Bee is still headquartered in San Diego.  It’s the nation’s largest branded canned seafood company, and a major player in the industry – a 41% U.S. market share for canned albacore and 13% percent of the canned “light meat” tuna market.

Bumble Bee’s U.S. and Canada sales totaled $933 million last year, according to bankruptcy records.

Yes, Bumble Bee filed for bankruptcy in November:

Bumble Bee Bankruptcy (2)

This was part of the fallout from price-fixing charges first brought in 2016:

Tuna First Charge (2)

All three companies were charged with price fixing – “collusion in the seafood packing industry” in government-ese – from at least 2011 to 2013.

Which was followed by this:

Bumble Bee Guilty (2)

And this:

Starkist Guilty (2)

The price-fixing scheme came to light when Chicken of the Sea’s attempt to buy Bumble Bee failed in 2015, according to court records.

Chicken of the Sea executives then alerted federal investigators, and the company received conditional leniency from the Justice Department for its cooperation with the price fixing investigation and didn’t have to pay fines.

At StarKist, Stephen Hodge, a former senior vice president for sales, pleaded guilty in guilty-stamp-22017 to price fixing.

In September 2018 a federal judge ordered StarKist to pay a $100 million fine for its role in the collusion.

And Bumble Bee Foods?

Bumble Bee agreed to pay a $25 million fine after pleading guilty to price fixing in 2017.

Two executives at Bumble Bee, Kenneth Worsham and Walter Cameron, pleaded guilty in the price fixing scheme.

The three companies face lawsuits from wholesalers, food service companies and retailers.

And, finally:

Bumble Bee had pleaded guilty; Worsham and Cameron at Bumble Bee had pleaded guilty.

But Bumble Bee former CEO Chris Lischewski apparently decided to take his chances in court – he pleaded not guilty.  (Lischewski had “stepped down from his leadership position” in May 2018.)

chris_01
Lischewski in better days; he was “one of the most respected and influential executives in the tuna canning industry.”

According to a 12/1/19 article in the Los Angeles Times, Lischewski was

“a major prosecution target because he was one of the most respected and influential executives in the tuna canning industry.

“And also because, by the government’s reckoning, he was a mastermind of the scheme.”

In early December, Lischewski was convicted in the price-fixing conspiracy by a federal jury in San Francisco:

Chris convicted (2).jpg

Lischewski faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, according to the indictment.  His sentencing is set for April 2020.

Chris Behind Bars (2)

Experts say this is likely the final piece of the DOJ probe.

I remember thinking over the years, “These cans of tuna are getting smaller.”

The Los Angeles Times article confirmed this:

“Bumble Bee, StarKist and Chicken of the Sea took several steps to shore up profits.  They shrank the size of their cans without a commensurate price reduction.  The seven-ounce cans that were the standard as recently as the 1980s gave way to six-ounce cans, and a couple of years ago to five-ounce cans.”

Smaller (2)

But apparently less tuna for the same (or more) cost to consumers wasn’t enough “shoring up” for these guys.

So they added price fixing to their recipe.

I’ll keep using those five-ounce cans to make my sandwich, which takes three ingredients:  tuna, mayo and celery.

This price-fixing conspiracy involved three companies, but required only one ingredient:

greed_01 cropped

Looks like former-CEO-now-felon Lischewski will have plenty of company:

Chicken (2)

Beef Packers (2)

Auto Parts (2)

Update:  January 31, 2020:

Headline (2)

A “rough few years” for Bumble Bee, indeed.

According to the article,

“Bumble Bee Foods has been sold for $928 million to Taiwan-based FCF Co., after years of legal troubles and bankruptcy for the San Diego-based company.

“Fines and litigation cost Bumble Bee millions of dollars, according to bankruptcy documents, eventually leading it to explore a sale.”

I expect FCF Co. president Max Chou is doing the Happy Dance.

I expect FCF Co. president Max Chou has written a thank-you note to Bumble Bee former-CEO-now-felon Chris Lischewski, “mastermind” of the price-fixing scheme:

Note FINAL (2)

Yo, Seatmate! How Ya Doin’?

If you’ve flown on commercial carriers over the past 10 years and wondered, “Gosh, is this seat smaller and do I have less leg room?”

It is, and you do.

It’s called “high-density seating” and the airlines aren’t bashful about it:airplane seats best

High-density seating means airlines utilize smaller seats in rows that are closer together to allow for more seats.

Bottom line:  More seats = more passengers = more profits.

Here’s just one example.  The Airbus A380 – a very popular commercial aircraft – “has a typical seating capacity of 525, though it is certified for up to 853 passengers.”

If you put 853 people in the same space you’d put 525 people, something’s got to go.

What goes is seat room and leg room.

And we tend to just grin and bear it – well, not grin, but bear it – because we’ve got to get to New York for a meeting or we want to go on vacation to California or seeing the sun rise over Uluru has been on our bucket list for years.

I mention high-density seating for a reason:

<> on May 9, 2018 in Windsor, England.

This is a miniature horse.  They generally stand between two and three feet tall and weigh between 150 and 250 pounds.

On an airplane, they don’t curl up in a pet carrier like a cat does.  They don’t contort themselves into a small space at their owner’s feet, like a dog does.

But they do produce manure, like any horse does.

In August the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) confirmed that it was okey-dokey for miniature horses to be in all cabins of commercial planes.

I’m guessing no one at DOT involved in this decision ever experienced this:

horse on plane better cropped

These are high-density seats 20E and 20F.

You’re in 20F, the window seat, and so glad you paid extra to be adjacent to the bulkhead in front of you.

You have more leg room, and no fool sitting in front of you, about to drop his seatback into your lap for the duration of the 10-hour flight.

Yup, you done good, buying your ticket early.

You hear a bit of a commotion, and see passengers standing up to get a better look at something moving down the aisle.  A few people are taking pictures with their phones.

Then you hear, “Ah.  Here’s our seat – 20E.”

horse on plane better cropped croppedA passenger is talking to a small horse.

A horse.  On your airplane.

The passenger smiles at you and says, “Hi!  This is Parsley.”

The passenger then backs Parsley the horse into the space between the seats and the bulkhead, all the way in, until the horse’s ass is right under the windows.

And right in front of your knees.

Say hello to your seatmates for the next 10 hours.

OK:  I want to be kind, and I want to be fair.

And in my research I learned that miniature horses actually can become effective trained service animals.  According to an article in the 8/17/19 New York Times,

“…guide horses serve as a compelling alternative to guide dogs.  The animals are mild-mannered and fast learners, with nearly 360-degree vision.  They may also offer balance support to individuals with physical disabilities.”

As for ESAs – emotional support animals – I’ve never felt the need for one, so I can’t put myself in the shoes of someone who does.

And we know that there is an abundance of owners who are claiming their animals as “necessary” to their emotional well-being during a flight.  Animals including pigs, lizards, ferrets, squirrels, hamsters, hedgehogs, mice, spiders, turkeys, monkeys, Dexter the peacock, kangaroos, and this…

Tarantulas (2)

And we’ve all heard the horror stories, like the ESA dog that injured a child on a Southwest Airlines flight, and the ESA dog that lunged at a seated passenger, attacking his face that leaving him with 28 stitches and a set of scars that may require plastic surgery.

And this story:

Dog Bite (3).jpg

And it’s hard to be kind and fair when the flight attendant is walking down the aisle with this, instead of my martini:

snake

Going back to the The New York Times article, it talked about a lady and her trained service animal:

“Mona Ramouni, 39, who is blind, has been traveling with her miniature guide horse, Cali, for the past 10 years.  She has flown from Michigan, where she lives, to New York City and Georgia, among other locations.

“Ms. Ramouni has created a tidy defecation setup for long flights:  When she senses that Cali needs to go, she signals the horse, who then goes into a deodorized bag.”

two martinis croppedAnd if Cali’s butt is parked in front of my knees…

Better make that two martinis.

So the next time I’m on a commercial aircraft and my seatmates include a miniature horse, I’ll stay calm and take a deep breath.  I’ll remind myself about “kind” and “fair.”

And that the horse could be a trained service animal.  If it’s an emotional support animal, I’ll hope that it, too, has been trained.

And when the owner pulls out that deodorized bag, I’ll take another deep breath and…

Hold it

Update:  January 22, 2020

Headline (2)

In mid-January the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the organization was seeking public comment on proposed amendments to its Air Carrier Access Act regulation on the transportation of service animals by air.

Or, as one flight attendant succinctly put it, “The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end.”

“Noah’s ark,” meaning…

kangaroo cropped Spider cropped larger Peacock larger
alligator Duck iguana cropped

Yes, these are just some of the “emotional support animals” people have brought (or tried to bring) on airplanes.

It’s clear that airline passengers have been abusing the emotional-support-animals-on-planes situation.

According to the ABC News article,

“Southwest Airlines handles more than 190,000 emotional support animals per year.  American Airlines carried 155,790 emotional support animals in 2017, up 48% from 2016, and United Airlines carried 76,000 comfort animals in 2017.

“The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes.  Officials highlighted a few areas where they are most eager to get comments, including whether miniature horses should continue to qualify as service animals.”

So whether or not the above-mentioned Mona Ramouni and others will be able to continue bringing their miniature guide horses on commercial flights is subject to public comment, and then a Department of Transportation decision sometime in March.

I sure don’t know the right answer.

My sympathy is with Ramouni…unless she parks her horse in front of me.

horse_01 cropped

Another article spelled out the proposed changes, if you’re interested in reading them:

  • Define a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.
  • No longer consider an emotional support animal to be a service animal.
  • Consider a psychiatric service animal to be a service animal and require the same training and treatment of psychiatric service animals as other service animals.
  • Allow airlines to require forms developed by the Department of Transportation, attesting to a service animal’s good behavior, certifying the service animal’s good health, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal has the ability to either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner.
  • Allow airlines to require passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to check-in at the airport one hour prior to the travel time required for the general public to ensure sufficient time to process the service animal documentation and observe the animal.
  • Require airlines to promptly check-in passengers with service animals who are subject to an advanced check-in process.
  • Allow airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals.
  • Allow airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft.
  • Continue to allow airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, tethered, or otherwise under the control of its handler.
  • Continue to allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.
  • Continue to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely on the basis of breed.

Peacock no (2)