Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Tito’s Turkey Power

May 24th, 2014

If you’re running for office in Boston or statewide, you’re smart to show for City Councilor Tito Jackson’s annual turkey fry. Most gubernatorial contenders showed, among others, for this sixth version.

For you left-brain types and other quibblers, yes, there’s a lot more than turkey, like burgers, dogs, BBQ, a few non-meat offerings, sodas and water (no alcohol), ice cream and ta da, a snow-cone machine. Oh, and while Tito is a big guy, he had four loudspeakers in the street, each of which was bigger than he. The music kept people dancing, swaying, eating to the beat, and shouting to be heard. Sweet.

Mostly, this is a street party for the Roxbury neighborhood above Seaver Street. Plus the pols get to mingle while they and their minions pitch planks and promises.  There are surprisingly few events so casual and low-key where pols can have several easy hours chatting up black and Latino voters outside a dais/chair venue.

I tried to behave well, not dominating time with pols nor even taking pix of all of them. Many have been guests on my Left Ahead show. I’d already met nearly all of them and it was a chance to touch hands again. In some cases, we swapped cards and agreed the candidate should come on the show or come on again.

The following are a few images with comments. Among other pols there were Don Berwick and Joe Avellone (governor), Leland Cheung (looey) and Maura Healey (AG). I was there for nearly three hours and saw nothing of a certain Martha Coakley nor any of her lackeys. (Sunday update: I see on Tito’s FB feed that she did show late, after I left.)

Pix clix: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. If it opens in the same window, use your browser’s back button or command to return.

License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

Long-term State Rep. Gloria Fox (since 1986) was a crowd please. She asked for support, noting, “I do not play. This is a diverse district (Suffolk 7) and I handle it well.’” GloriaFox
FDarroyo1 Another familiar face and voice was Felix D. Arroyo, former Councilor, father of a current councilor, and candidate for register of probate and family court. He’s always delightful and to us boomers sounds refreshingly like Ricky Ricardo. In fact, he noted that when he first ran for office many years ago, his accent was stronger.He asked one thing of the voters before him, on the Sept. 9th primary, his office will be down at the bottom of a long ballot, he wants to make sure people get all the way down there and finish the job.
Not everything was smiles and sandwiches. The Suffolk sheriff crew showed up with a police-dog demo. Adults a bit, but mostly the kids were impressed at the tenaciousness and training. Titodog
Falchuk Evan Falchuk (governor on the United Independent Party and sure to be on the November ballot) noted both in his remarks and to me that he considers it his job to discomfort the other candidates and raise key issues. In a deep nod to the Roxbury locale, he said that carried over, not so much to where the party was but to where he lives (Newton). He noted that his daughter and her classmates didn’t get the BPS-style warnings about how to behave when confronted by police. He said he regularly draws attention to the contradiction with urban communities of color.
Here’s a small subset of the several hundred at chez Jackson. (Right in the middle is Leland Cheung ([t. gov.] who didn’t want to give up his baby.) Titofront
Tolman Warren Tolman (lAG) pitched specific planks, like support for smart-gun technology.
 In a turnabout that borders on irony, gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman immediately went to the ice cream table — but to server rather than eat. He loves ice cream but is willing to share.By the bye, he said he wasn’t disturbed ty the recent poll that showed rival Coakley well ahead of all contenders. He noted his campaign had not spent a dime on ads and when it started, the field would level. Moreover, the thought the poll was an outlier. Grossmandip

 

Freedom of Peek

March 5th, 2014

With mixed thoughts, I see that MA’s high court ruled today that perverts on the subway can legally take upskirt pix. (The news broke on Universal Hub, here. The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision is here.  )

Of course, doing so is intrusive, tacky, and and, well, sort of, some kind of assault.

Sure, you can state the all too obvious — women ought to wear underwear, whether they do or not, they should keep their legs together if they wear a skirt or dress. Most do. Too many don’t. I don’t want to see flashes or swathes of underpants of women or men.

Yet, what is it that seems to excite so many? Why are there websites devoted to upskirt images? Why would anyone watch a Victoria’s Secret Fashion show? Why is lingerie the, if you pardon, butt of so many comedy routines? Why do women as well as men fixate on bras and panties?

Truth be told, I remember in early puberty being turned on by men’s magazines in barber shops and plain old catalogs showing women déshabillé. That was the euphemism for in your underwear. Back then, a movie was really risqué if an actress appeared in underwear, without the dress covering the clothing that in fact covered their prurient parts.

Even today, there cultures and subcultures titillated not by the actual body parts, rather the garments that hide them. For example, Japanese press and literature frequently alludes to men’s fascination with and hope for glimpses of underpants.

As I began dating, I quickly learned to favor and choose the real over the fantasy. Is that all this fetish is about?

Even if the crotch clickers with cellphones don’t grow up and out of their fixation, even it the SJC says that’s legal, you’d hope that the targeted women and the other passengers would at least call them out.  That might stop them…unless they are into public humiliation.

Self-appointed Nemesis

May 10th, 2013

A few good guys have somewhat offset the inhumanity and sociopathic deeds of the Tsarnaev butchers. Major good guy was funeral director Peter Stefan and more recently do-gooder Martha Mullin in Richmond, VA, who made federal. commonwealth, and MA city officials out to be the bozos they so often are. The two of them got Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the ground, simultaneously satisfying legal, moral, religious, and political needs.

Now that wasn’t all that hard was it?Newelskull

Honestly, for the People of the Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims — the proscriptions and prescriptions were quite plain. Regardless of the alleged or proven sins of the previous possessor of the corpse in question, the body needed to be buried. In particular, as he was a Muslim, his remains should have gone in the ground as soon as possible and not be cremated.

Now that wasn’t all that hard was it?

Oddly enough though, the flogging by the crazed avengers has not and will not end. For a hint of only the latest vitriolic irrationality, check the comments by Boston Herald fans on the burial article.

For People of the Book, they forget that it is God who judges and not we mortals. Yet let us keep in perspective that these are likely the same hateful sorts who want to see perpetual punishment on those convicted of crimes. The concept of having served your debt to society is meaningless to them. In fact, being imprisoned for a crime is not punishment by itself, rather it is prelude to punishment; the facility must be as inhumane and dreadful as possible; prison itself is for punishment; pile it on.

Then once the sentence is complete, the ex-convict should not be allowed to earn a living or reenter society or be cleared and forgiven. Allow no forgiveness or fresh start, damn it!

I  don’t know where these people were during sermons, homilies, Bible readings or home teaching. The idea of perpetual punishment is not in our religious teaching. It came from elsewhere that they should have the authority, the right, to rain a life of anguish on sinners.

Instead, let us keep our perspective. Tamerlan Tsarnaev is nearly two months gone. His corpse remained, though he is gone. The hate and bile and faux retribution over what happened to his corpse is inane and cruel beyond belief.

Let us pause to pity those who proclaimed themselves judges of the corpses of fellow sinners. They understand neither our common commandments, nor our golden rule, nor societal decency that binds most of us. I forgive them.

 

No Need to Keep Tamerlan Alive

May 8th, 2013

stonebonesWhile it might amuse those who know me to read it, I sometimes feel I lack self-control…st least in stifling myself in commenting.

I’ve been pretty good staying away from the brothers Tsarnaev matters, despite my many thoughts and feelings. Ryan and I did riff a bit on it at the very beginning of our most recent Left Ahead show, which actually introduced the Boston mayoral contest.

I can quickly get my fill of spite and bile from protesters interviewed on the news in Worcester or Boston, or if I can stomach it, reading the comments in any related Boston Herald article. More surprising have been the preemptive moves by the nearby government officials. The Worcester cops are piling (can we say pig piling?) it on Peter Stefan, the noble funeral director who has had the guts to take the body and work for its burial by saying he owes them $30,000 for doing their jobs. That is, they directed traffic and such around the protests by his establishment. This has whiffs of when the Boston police encouraged attacking the Sacco/Vanzetti corpse transfers from the North End to Forest Hills for cremation. Self-righteousness has no place behind badges and guns.

Stefan has a long career of such as burying AIDS-related corpses and those of gang-violence victims when no one else would help their loved ones in fatal crisis. He deserves respect, not reviling. He’s one of the good guys.

Then in Cambridge, City Manager Robert Healy and in Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino each preemptively said publicly not to consider asking those cities to find a burial spot. Eh? I don’t know Healy, but I do know and like Menino. Such a position is beneath him.

At least some at the Globe have a more historically and humanitarian and reality based view. Consider Adrian Walker’s column today that in effect says bury the elder Tsarnaev brother, let the story fade from the news and give some peace and a little closure to those affected. A fitting companion piece by Peter Schworm cites how other hated mass murderers, child molesters and such were quickly and quietly planted without endless public drama and ceaseless coverage.

The classic message for no rest to the wicked is holding around here. Think the multiple places in Isiah, such as 57:20, But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

If MA history holds, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be convicted of the Marathon bombings, he will get life without possibility of parole instead of execution, and he will die in prison not too long away — either by his own hand or that of another inmate. That’s what we do here with the infamous and despised.

Given my classics background, my first thoughts when so many began making so much of the disposition of the corpse was to reflect on Plato’s Phaedo, describing the last hours of Socrates’ life. The philosopher had the long view and made sport with follower Crito over what he viewed as petty concerns about his corpse.

With death pending for Socrates, Crito tried to be helpful and respectful, going for the mundane details. He even asked, “How shall we bury you.” The old wag started with a joke — “Just as you please. if only you can catch me, and I do not escape from you.”

Then he got more to the point. He said not to refer to the body as Socrates. It will be just a body and not the person. Thus usual or customary disposal is fine. “You must have a good courage, then, and say that you bury my body, and bury it in such a manner as is pleasing to you, and as you think is most agreeable to our laws.”

So it is here. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died three and one half weeks ago. Only those who involve themselves in keeping him alive to the public through their arrogant and self-centered proclamations cannot let him die.

Boston Timeout

April 19th, 2013

Cops, the Gov., our mayor and such are using terms like “self-shelter” or “shelter in place.” They’ve locked down this city and others in area, notably Cambridge where the Boston Marathon bombers lived and Watertown where one died in a shootout with police and the other may still be hiding (or dead).

Closed are all mass transit, stores, public schools, private and public colleges, government offices…virtually everything except Dunkin’ Donuts (not kidding). I first became aware of the reach of this security reaction at a few minutes after 8 this morning. The lifeguard whistled me out of the pool, not for roughhousing, rather because the whole Y was shut down per the mayor’s orders.

fencewebbyOn one hand, this is sensible. A single fugitive mass murder is somewhere out here, likely still in the Boston area. He may have and may even be wearing explosive devices, may have hand guns, may be wanting to take out more police or civilians at his own end.

Our advice that is couched as order includes not to open our locked doors to anyone who is not a uniformed, identified law-enforcement agent. We are to stay indoors. That edict covers the 600,00-plus Bostonians and a total of maybe 2 million in the area.

I’ve read and heard much bluster since Monday’s bombings. There’s a pol writing on FB that he’d strangle this guy with his bare hands. In North Station, a Guardsman with military weapons called to a train cop that he hopes they haven’t caught him yet, that he wants to get him personally. In the men’s locker room this morning, a massive early middle-aged guy said locking down Boston was silly and unnecessary, that if the bad guy saw him, he’d be shaking and give up. Yadda yadda.

On another hand, in my decades, I’ve been through various crises here and in other communities. This likely short-lived one differs from all others in that there is no chance for real community.

After 9/11, we here knew too certainly that the ambient hum of commercial planes high overhead was replaced with the unmistakable guttural grumble of fighter jets. Instead of the frequent distant humming, we knew every half hour or so that a death machine was patrolling the Boston clouds, the very skies where two of the hijacker sets flew from Logan through on their hellish missions. Then we were in the streets, yards, offices, bars and elsewhere together. We wept together, were hopeful together, shared our fears and depression…together.

In less stressful times, in big blizzards here, we’d commiserate being without power for days. We’d pile into our streets together. We’d help each other shovel aside four or six feet of snow. We’d make snowmen, no whole snow families. We’d heap snow and ice into tall piles for our kids to slide down. Those whose stoves worked without electricity would cook. We’d share food and milk and wine. We were together.

Here today though, we are isolated. We watch TV and click the net with multiple tabs open. We look at locked front and back doors. We cancel plans. We, as that phrase would have it, self-shelter.

Monday, one of the few blessings following the horror was a combined defiance and sense of community. We weren’t going to be beaten down or cowed by terrorists.

Today, we find ourselves being safe and sensible…and very alone.

Stop Sign Philosophy

August 6th, 2012

Even though their heads are muddled, their hearts mean well. When cycling and public-transportation groups chant, “Same roads. Same rules.” they do think they’ve solved the cycling/driving/walking problems.

Alas, such highly oversimplified and illogical solutions solve nothing. We can get deeper in a moment, but you might divert to read cycling scofflaw Randy Cohen in yesterday’s NY Times. The former writer of the paper’s ethics column puts a philosophical spin on the issue…from a very personal perspective. He justifies his own daily trumping of strict interpretation of traffic laws and regulations. He hurts no one and doesn’t even endanger himself by treating stop lights and stop signs as yield signs. He slows and makes sure the way is clear, then makes his own way, darn it.

Whaa. He’s cheating!

You just know that the literalists, the rules-are-rules types, will fume and perhaps send chiding emails. That is the way of the bike/ped/drive conflict. The majority of adults seem to despise, disparage or at least distrust cyclists and are quick with the hyperbolic justifications — all cyclists are reckless, running all lights and endangering everyone on the roads; all pedestrians are jaywalkers who live to imperil themselves and inconvenience drivers; all drivers obey every traffic law and rule…except maybe fudging on speed limits a tiny bit.

Unlike many European nations, we here are not ready for the physical, intellectual and emotional shift to urban cycling. We see in number of cyclists, in lack of enforcement of driving laws, and in the combined driver-oriented actions of the police, prosecutors and judges that Americans illogically and emotionally would like bikes to go away and stay in the kids’ toy class.

Yes, yes, we talk the game of conserving energy. We talk the game of reducing traffic, noise and pollution. We talk.

When it comes time to remove parking spaces to make room for cycle tracks and bike lanes, most of us stomp and wail about the unfairness of it. When we see daily what scofflaws too many drivers are, we still pretend that it’s those damned cyclists that cause the risks, congestion and injuries. The stats report, in the strongest terms, that it’s otherwise, that drivers are the dangerous lawbreakers. Yet, this is cultural and our hearts aren’t there. We’d rather point to real or theoretical bikers running red lights and pretend the problem is with others, not ourselves.

Roads and rules

Back to same roads/same rules. That’s crap. That is intentionally naive and even dumb. There are tremendous differences between cars and bikes. We can’t really set up the roads and laws properly until we become more realistic about those distinctions.

Same roads. First consider that there are numerous essential distinctions between motor vehicle and cycle roads. For example, bikes are forbidden from using limited access highways and toll roads. Motor vehicles can’t legally drive on sidewalks anywhere, even out of business districts, can’t use many designated parkways (although cops rarely enforce that even when the signs are plain that commercial vehicles aren’t allowdd) or shared bike/pedestrian paths or bike lanes or bike paths. Cyclists though can use streets and roads, even when there is a parallel bike path, and can (over the steaming objection of drivers) use a full lane if it is necessary to travel safely. The laws are OK here; they just need to be enforced to the tune of frequent, large fines for motorists.

Same rules. Here’s a huge cultural difference. Motorists in the main are oblivious to physical realities of cycling, while cyclists are or have been motorists and grok the corresponding limits and benefits. More than once, I have been cut off by or threatened by or even brushed by drivers and spoken with them. Most are truly unaware of things that should be obvious, like when a bike stops, the cyclist falls over unless a foot goes out for the pavement or there’s some skilled balancing act. Think about that as a possible driving issues. Bikes can easily go 15 to 25 miles per hours, so turning right immediately as you begin passing a cyclist is both illegal and dangerous. Bikes can stop from speed in 5 to 20 feet, while a car will go 100 feet in the time it takes a driver to move a foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal, not counting the actual stopping time. Cyclists have minimal inertia to overcome and can leave from a dead stop before a driver can being to move. Drivers behave much more sanely when cyclists leave an intersection first and the car can overtake them, otherwise the drivers don’t seem to have a physical sense of where the cyclist is and thus drive erratically.

After decades of urban cycling, I end up concurring with Cohen on the effect if not the philosophy of stop signs and stop lights. He likes to pretend that his scofflaw behavior is morally superior to literal obedience. In contrast, I think the physics and logic of treating those signals all as stop signs have benefits for all. Yet acknowledging those distinctions is what will require that cultural shifts, as they have successfully done in Idaho, even in the very citified Boise.

Consider:

  • it doesn’t take much time or distance for a cyclist to stop or get moving again
  • cyclists can clear an intersection in a small fraction of the time it takes a driver to get moving and get across
  • drivers are very uncomfortable leaving a light at the same time as cyclists beside them
  • drivers are comfortable and seem to feel in control when they overtake and pass cyclists ahead of them
  • motor vehicles are heavy, fast and deadly; they are aim-able weapons
  • silent bikes can startle inattentive pedestrians but by physical reality and by stats are far, far less likely to hit much less damage a person or vehicle

So rephrasing the simpleminded chant is limited. Think, “some of the same roads and many of the same rules.” That demands too much thinking for ordinary folk, particularly the literal minded. It is a potential big education issue and process.

Yet, that’s where major European cities and countries have arrived. We’re far from that though.

More bikes for more awareness

Many biking advocates say repeatedly that when there are sufficient bicyclists commuting and recreating on the streets and roads, people will get it. Drivers and walkers will begin to pay attention, both for their safety and those of the cyclists. A few U.S. cities are almost there, but most are quite a ways off. If preponderance is what it takes, we may be several decades away from drivers and pedestrians taking personal responsibility, as well as the chain of enforcement bring the hammer down on feckless, reckless folk. That, of course includes cyclists, although stereotypes aside, they are far from the most frequent or most dangerous offenders.

Meanwhile, skilled cyclists will likely advocate for Idaho-style sensible laws and acting out their personal versions of them. I doubt many will do the situation ethics justification that Cohen uses, but the effect will be the same. Maybe a few drivers will realize how good it is that those pesky bikers are out of the intersection where they can keep an eye on and pass them. I suspect that many more will have the puerile attitude that someone gets a privilege they don’t. There’s not a lot of prevention or cure for that sort of childishness. It will come with changing laws, the eventual matching enforcement by cops on all concerned, and that distant future of lots of cyclists.

 

 

Helmet Hell

July 21st, 2012

You gotta wonder how the increasing cyclists’ recording drivers will play out. For background, check out the biz/tech angles in a NYT piece on camera mounted on bike helmets.

The short of it is that what started out as a nice system for recording training rides, scenery and such has legal uses. Aggressive and scofflaw drivers on video have a real tough time jiving cops and prosecutors.

My wonder is whether it would change behavior if drivers learned they couldn’t count on the using the cliché that it’s the reckless, wilding cyclists, certainly not the guy behind the wheel, breaking the law. From experiential and anecdotal knowledge, as well as DOT and other stats, those who kill and maim, and those who routinely risk the lives of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, are not on two wheels, rather four or more.

Yet it seems from newspaper reports as well as those personal tales, many cops, prosecutors and judges are eager to believe the mythology of the innocent, law and regulation abiding driver having to watch out for all those terrible cyclists terrorizing the roads with their 30 pound weapons. The extrapolation with this emerging technology leads to related questions. A big one is how will drivers and all those involved in the law deal with increasing proof that far too many drivers are reckless, aggressive, endangering or even homicidal a startling amount of the time.

From what I’ve seen as cyclist, driver, pedestrian and bus rider, a typical driver breaks multiple traffic laws on every single trip. Some are just poor manners, like not signaling turns, thus making others guess, wait, miss lights and so forth. Others could be serious, like running red lights, blocking crosswalks, failing to yield to pedestrians, buzzing cyclists, and cutting off drivers or cyclists. I invite you to follow a few drivers at a safe distance, ideally with a passenger to record what you see. It’s the extremely rare driver who goes more than a few blocks without a moving violation.

Yet the helmet-cam cyclists aren’t out for the majority of drivers who mindlessly disobey traffic laws. After all, most cops can’t be bothered with no-blood/no-wreck violations. Bicyclists are concerned with the aggressive and dangerous drivers who force them off the road, who hit and run, who j-hook them to the pavement, who threaten them first with their vehicles and then often with fists or weapons.

Without the camera, the driver has plausible deniability. After all, don’t we each know what crazies cyclists are, every one?

So, it’s legal to video someone’s actions in public, as in driving down the streets. Cops can’t really hide from their obligations when a cyclist can prove that a motorist crashed into them and sped off, or the like. More helmet cams will mean more prosecutions, fines, suspended licenses, insurance surcharges and maybe even jail time.

How will the driving community react? Will the police tweak their training to remind their officers that a cyclist might be telling the truth about a motor vehicle attack? Will judges have to step back from their identification with fellow drivers over those strange two-wheel types?

I suspect the immediate response from drivers will to try to wheedle out of the proof. Either they’ll call foul on being recorded, or ask whether you want to believe your eyes or their words. Drivers who speak or write of cyclists dearly love their dual fantasy — they are blameless and cyclists at semi-human detritus.

I’m a cautious cyclist in watching out for the loons on four wheels. I do claim a lane, but I never assume drivers will stop at red lights or go the right way down a one-way street or look and yield before entering traffic. Yet, I still get buzzed by bike haters, cut off by ditzes, and threatened by drivers who demand that I get out of “their” traffic lane.

Helmet cams are cheap, money-wise, but precious in concept. Just maybe…

Boston Dudley Do-Nothing

June 13th, 2012

Growing up in houses filled with cops and with relatives who were staties, I am predisposed to liking police officers. They make it hard.

In my childhood, my mother ran Red Cross chapters, which involved training police and such in first aid and water safety, coordinating with and training ambulance and fire folk and co-hosting disaster preparedness weekends. We knew a lot of cops.

The other side of my thinking cops are the good guys is expecting them to behave that way. I think they should act to protect the public, drive like the best examples, know the laws, and enforce the letter and spirit of those laws.

For three decades though, I’ve lived in a town where a running joke about BPD folk in blue is “no blood, no ticket.” They seem loath to do anything that involves a ticket book or other paperwork. Moreover, too many, including the Commissioner, B.S. their way through life. That makes it hard to respect cops.

Today down in Logan Square around 2:30 PM, I had another experience with incompetent make-it-up-as-you-go policing. An officer saw a serious traffic law violation, but instead of enforcing the law, he showed both ignorance and lack of concern. It’s wearing.

The short of it is that I was walking to Cleary Square, westbound on River Street by the Hyde Park municipal building. Still healing from a broken clavicle and several busted ribs, I’m tricked out in an arm sling with my bright orange windbreaker. At 6 feet and nearly 200 pounds, I’m not camouflaged.

As I entered the crosswalk, a woman whipped around the right turn on River Street, almost stopping at the stop sign. She not only continued rolling toward me, but blew her car horn, as though this crippled guy should disappear and stop inconveniencing her.

When she honked, I thought there might be an acceptable reason, as another vehicle or other case where she was blowing to avoid a wreck, you know, the legal basis for horn blowing. Turning to my right toward her as I made my way across the crosswalk, I saw her raise her fist, mouth what looked like obscenities and swerve around me. She never stopped, as required by law. She certainly did not yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk, as required by law. Of course, as a minor issue, she also used her car horn  to threaten instead of its allowable safety purpose.

I pointed to her as she whipped past, barely missing me and called, “Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks!” Then the amazing happened.

A uniformed BPD officer appeared…and proceeded to scold me. I told him that she had just broken multiple state laws and deserved a ticket with fines, likely license suspension and six years of insurance surcharge.

Unbelievably, he told me:

  • He would have gotten to it and handled it, if only I had not turned and pointed at the driver
  • I had no right to point at her
  • My actions, inexplicably by geometry and time, caused him not to apprehend the driver for the crimes he had witnessed
  • Even though my walking through the crosswalk had slowed the aggressive driver, his not bothering to take two or three strides toward her and stop her was somehow my fault and not that of his indolence

I came right back at him. He saw the crimes and did nothing. He did not step forward and stop the driver when he easily could have. She violated the failure to yield  law and was subject to a $200 fine and she used her horn to threaten, which I said was a Boston regulation.

He countered that it was a $100 fine and that if I had not turned toward the driver, he was going to do something. Somehow, he implied, it was my fault he made no effort to apprehend her.

I checked and I was almost entirely right. It is $200 for the crosswalk violation. However, the horn violation is of state law and not city regulation, with a $50 fine.

Maybe I should have snagged the cop’s badge and recorded the scofflaw driver’s plate. I’ve wearied of that over the years, particularly with Commissioner Davis’  total disingenuous responses to his officers’ behavior.

Here before me was yet another Boston cop who did not know the laws, who made up what he thought violations and fines were, who saw crimes committed and did nothing, and who chastened the victim instead of taking a couple of steps (literally) to grab the perp or even calling in her plate to the nearby station. What a slug!

He even said to me, “Do you think they know the laws?” I was aghast, as in he didn’t even know the laws.

I’ve known good cops in various places, including Boston. For over two decades, I shared the block as well as the first name with one of the best in Jamaica Plain. That Mike though is not the norm.

On Ripping Off Relics

March 4th, 2012

I confess, but only as a figure of speech, that relics and reliquaries seem ghoulish to me, a non-Roman Catholic. As matter of faith, I likely shouldn’t find them so. I was a devote little Christian, one who believed in transubstantiation during communion, which I took many times.

Along with hormonal floods, puberty brought dousing of knowledge and analytic thought. I got better.

Today the news from Dublin includes the discovery that somebody made off with the heart of Saint Lorcan Ua Tuathail, later known as Laurence (or Lawrence) O’Toole. That’s a big deal, as he is the patron saint of Dublin.

The relic had been in a wooden box in a square iron cage in the cathedral. It was no impulse pilfer either, the thief/thieves sawed through the bars and  forced the cage free to get the treasure. The church dean said, “It has no economic value but it is a priceless treasure that links our present foundation with its founding father.”

Yet we also have to wonder, as parts of saints have been bought/sold/swapped/stolen for centuries. Some allegedly are duplicated in multiple locations. Other religious artifacts, such as pieces of “the True Cross” whereon Jesus died, appear in so many churches that wags have said there are enough around to build Noah’s ark.

To  believers, even beyond Ireland, such tangible links to holy folk are sacred in their own right. Many supposedly have innate powers — healing the sick if prayed to and beside, and other such miracles. Nearly six years ago, many gathered in Boston to peek at the visiting heart of a saint lent by a French church and briefly displayed here. I joined them.

To us less faithful, we are wont to insult folk by speaking of worshiping a finger bone in a filigree tube (available at the Cloisters in NYC, for one) and such. Catholics are quick to point out that there’s a huge difference between praying through a saint to God and worshiping a body part.

For the best treatment to the relic world concentrated on the whole bodies, I recommend Magnificent Corpses: Searching Through Europe for St. Peter’s Head, St. Claire’s Heart, St. Stephen’s Hand, and Other Saintly Relics by Anneli Rufus. She was fascinated by relics, particularly whole bodies of the incorruptibles — corpses on display allegedly never decomposing, thus proving their holiness. She visited numerous shrines to observe both the saints’ remains and the visitors.

St. Lorcan lived in the 12th Century. There are trails and tales of his body parts too, including buried, disinterred and stolen bones. Even before his relics were shared and disappeared, he was on a fast track to sainthood. Many claimed miracles by praying to him in the months and years following his death (natural causes and not martyrdom) both at his tomb and through his intercession.

He apparently led a saintly life of humility and abstinence, replete with hair shirt, prolonged fasting, forgoing meat and stimulants and such that other prelates enjoyed. Now whether a figurative pure heart translated into a literal holy one, I suppose, is that matter of faith. Regardless, ripping off a religion’s palpable symbol is a terrible act.

Bucks for Busts

December 2nd, 2011

We lesser mortals may gape at antiquities in museums, squinting at the plaques, straining to recall our history lessons, and generally marveling at the artistry of the potters and sculptors. Others know potential profit when they approach it.

In today’s FT Wealth maggy, the mindset of collectors, dealers and museums is the cover story. As it turns out, we have been distracted by the past few decades of tales of tainted treasures. Countries and some individuals have worked to get back looted, stolen or smuggled works. Folk concerned with the money aspect above all understand the implications.

For centuries, museums and rich collectors rubbed the spoils of Colonialism and conquest. They’d haughtily proclaim they were the rightful, righteous guardians of treasures that would be lost otherwise.

As others began to track the routes of various statues and such, they found less honorable provenance for many. We’ve been slowly learning of various artifacts and art returned to wronged owners.

The business angle? The FT turns to Christian Levett, a hedge-fund founder whose museum displays his collection of antiquities. He says provenance is the key differentiator now.

For tax evasion or less nefarious reasons, ownership paper trails on many objects are scant or none. He claim to buy only with verifiable info. The dubious works are always at risk.

He figures, “What’s happened in the last few years is that the price of antiquities with a strong provenance has shot up, while those with a weak one are not really moving. A two-tier market of pricing has developed, and the sky is the limit for items with great provenance.”

Check the paperwork before writing that multimillion dollar check.