font-family: 'Arizonia', cursive; Michael Stichauf - "As I understand it now...'til it changes": February 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

An Incredible, Courageous Act of Heroism

Lt (J.G.) Thomas Hudner
I saw this story on the Smithsonian Channel. The link I posted here is to another site that has a great written account of the act.

Korea- 1950. Somewhere over the Chosin Reservoir.

Lt. JG Thomas Hunter, flying as "wingman" to Ensign Jesse Brown was an unusual situation. The Lt JG was a superior officer to the Ensign. What was even more UNUSUAL about the situation was the fact that the Ensign was African- American to boot! Yet, in the Navy at that time, "lead" and "wingman" assignments were handed out according to experience and Ens. Brown had more flight hours. Although the two pilots didn't "hang out" together while not flying, they both acquired tremendous respect for one another and considered each other friends. 

On 4 December 1950, the two pilots were on a mission over enemy territory. Suddenly, Ens. Brown's F4U Corsair was hit by enemy fire and started to go down. He crash-landed on the slope of a mountain near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. Assuming he was dead, his wingman was shocked when he saw Brown slide his canopy back and wave to him, signaling, "I'm alive!" Knowing Brown didn't stand a chance behind enemy lines, Hudner made a split second decision! He would stay with his friend and help him to get back to safety! The other pilots on the mission called for the rescue helicopter as they watched in amazement as Hudner crash-landed his Corsair 100 yards from Brown. 

When Hudner reached his friend, he realized that Brown was in trouble. Brown's right leg was crushed underneath the instrument panel of the plane! Hudner tried desperately to free his friend but it was too difficult by himself. Fifteen minutes after Hudner crashed his plane, the rescue Helo arrived. Both men (Hudner & the Helo pilot) tried valiantly to extricate Brown from his plane but to no avail. As darkness descended, they HAD NO CHOICE but to leave. Hudner promised Brown that they would return in the morning with heavier equipment to rescue him and they departed.

That night, severe weather blew in and no one could fly a helo out to the crash site to rescue Ensign Brown. I’m sure, considering his empathy for his fellow pilot and friend, Hudner worried about Brown’s condition. What was going through Jesse’s mind as he sat helpless and hopeless in his destroyed plane? How was he dealing with the weather? Korea is legendary for its tremendously cold winters. Did the North Koreans finally find him? Maybe, mercifully, he had passed out due to blood loss or cold and didn’t have to suffer the mental and emotional torture that he was sure to undergo. The bad weather continued for a total of three days. As one day turned to two and two days turned to three, no one, even his friend Thomas Hudner, expected Jesse Brown to still be alive. Days later, to honor their comrade, the navy pilots flew over Brown's plane and dropped napalm on it. It was the pilots' why of giving Brown a "Valkyrian" sendoff.

What makes this story so tremendous is not the fact that a pilot, with NO DAMAGE TO HIS OWN PLANE, deciding to risk his life by crash landing to help his fellow pilot. It's also not the fact that, even if he was successful, he could face court-martial for destroying gov't property and disobeying orders! What makes this story so tremendous is the fact that, with these two scenarios A DEFINITE POSSIBILITY, Hudner decided to risk life and career for an African-American! Remember, this event happened during a time when race relations were starting to heat up. African- Americans, after honorably serving their country in WW2, were home now and EXPECTING TO BE TREATED AS HUMAN BEINGS! The fact that Ensign Jesse Brown was African- American NEVER ENTERED HUDNER'S MIND when he decided to crash land his plane and risk not only his career but his life to save A FELLOW AMERICAN! Yes, simply doing what he did made Hudner's actions incredible but the fact that he did it for an African- American, in the 1950’s, was TRULY HEROIC!

For a period of time, Thomas Hudner wasn’t sure if he would be court-martialed. There was talk of this occurring but eventually cooler heads prevailed and Hudner’s actions were finally seen to be what they were- “...conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty...”. That’s what the citation reads for the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant (J.G.) Thomas Jerome Hudner, Jr., U.S. Navy. Hudner went on to a distinguished career with the Navy. Although it shouldn’t surprise anyone, considering the times, Hudner received what most people would refer to as “hate mail” from some sections of the country for risking his life in order to save an African- American. Of course, “African- American” is not how they referred to Ensign Jesse Brown in those letters. Yet, to Lt. Thomas Hudner, Jesse Brown was simply, “FRIEND”.

Ensign Jesse L. Brown was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “...his exceptional courage, airmanship, and devotion to duty in the face of great danger.”
And that’s “As I Understand it Now... ‘til it changes”.
Thank you for reading,

Michael K. Stichauf

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

 A Simple Answer to 
Police Malfeasance & Brutality

In Chicago, a Chicago-area couple sued a local drug task force on December 28, charging that members of the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group (MEG) illegally detained them without cause and ransacked their vehicle and home for drugs, but, not finding any drugs, instead stole thousands of dollars worth of items, including money orders, which have been cashed by the MEG. MEG has denied stealing the other items, including a flat screen TV.*

The family of slain teen, Fong Lee, have filed a lawsuit against the Minneapolis police and the officer who killed him. The family has compiled a review of police reports, witness statements and other evidence that support the theory that Fong Lee was unarmed when he was shot by police eight times in 2006 and the gun found near his body was planted there by police. The gun that the officers claim to have found near Fong Lee's body had been recovered by police from a burglary and was kept as evidence. The family also alleges in court documents that Minneapolis police "may have tried to deliberately alter history by writing new reports indicating the gun recovered near Fong Lee's body was not the same gun" that had been recovered after the burglary. The evidence suggests that Minnesota police planted the gun to cover themselves after killing Fong Lee in the street. Police reports indicate that no fingerprints or DNA was found on the weapon.

* Stories courtesy of

Every week I have a couple of websites that I checkout to get the latest update on a terrible problem that’s simply running rampant in American society.  I refer to this problem as, “ ‘Copper’ Malfeasance and Brutality”. I don’t use the word “Police” because, as far as I’m concerned, “Police” is a word that should be reserved for good, honest Police Officers! Believe me, I know the difference between the two. I have a few individuals that I’m friends with who are good, honest police officers.

Rarely do we see the day when the news reports the story of a copper or coppers who’ve been sentenced to jail time for the crimes that they’ve committed against the public/citizens. All too often we read or hear that, “after further investigation,  Officer So and So was found to have committed no criminal act AND is not RESPONSIBLE for Mr./Ms. Anonymous’ death.”  The prosecutor’s office or the Police Chief from whatever department the copper or coppers happen to be from has decided that, after further review of the evidence and the statements (from fellow coppers) of witnesses, there’s no evidence of wrongdoing! In fact, even when these coppers DO go to trial, all too often, the judge (usually no jury trial) states that he simply found the witness testimony (the public at large) not to be credible! The coppers, who’ve been accused of the particular crime, are MORE BELIEVABLE in their testimonies than the actual public witnesses who witnessed the crime. Think about that for a minute... when have you EVER heard a judge or jury say that the person accused of a crime is more BELIEVABLE than the police officers who arrested him. It’s one-in-a-million! An accused person has every motive to lie. Yet, when it comes to coppers getting on the stand to tell the judge or jury that they didn’t commit the crime they were accused of, they’re simply taken AT THEIR WORD! Why... they have the uniform! Even with ALL the stories of malfeasance and brutality that flood the news and the “etherworld”, people STILL believe that coppers DO NO WRONG! Even the ridiculous theory that just about EVERY person in the world seems to believe; “He must be guilty, otherwise he wouldn’t have been arrested”, goes out the window when it comes to coppers!

So, it seems to me that we have a problem here that needs to be solved. Information received by a third party, after the fact, from individuals involved in an adversarial situation, is SIMPLY NOT RELIABLE INFORMATION! I don’t believe that we can afford to rely on the public, who most certainly have a motive to lie about what they’ve just witnessed a copper do, to tell the truth when they have to testify. I also don’t believe that we can trust the coppers to tell the truth when they are accused of doing something wrong either. It’s just not smart justice. I know that for a long time though, it’s the only way we had! Well, times have changed! We now have the technology to FIX THIS PROBLEM!

Over the years, people have always resisted change. Resistance to the change in technology has been no different. Take, for example, the tapping of phones. Elliot Ness used this technical innovation in order to tap the phones of Al Capone’s men to find out information about where they stored their liquor, when they were making shipments and all sorts of information that would help him “fight the war on alcohol”. Because it was a new and novel idea, people weren’t quite sure whether it was ethical or legal.  The one thing that they WERE SURE OF was that it was a great way to get information.

In the early 1960s, when Bobby Kennedy took over the Justice Department as Attorney General, he issued an order that he wanted the F.B.I. to start “taking down the Organized Crime groups” in the country. He told the F.B.I.’s, J. Edgar Hoover, to use whatever means necessary to start getting him convictions. Hoover setup the “Top Hoodlum Program” in all the cities that he decided had Organized Crime (O.C. from here on). Aside from around the clock surveillance and other means to collect information, the F.B.I. tapped the phones of important O.C figures around the country. This was done, of course, illegally. The F.B.I. NEVER intended to use the information from their “illegal taps” in a court of law. Hoover NEVER let the law get in the way of getting what he wanted. Hoover also used wiretaps to gain information on the “Anti-War Movement” and Martin Luther King. If it wasn’t for the Church Commission, the public would have NEVER found out about these illegal activities committed, NOT BY YOUR AVERAGE CRIMINAL but by your HIGHLY REGARDED F.B.I. AGENT!

Bill Roemer was an F.B.I. agent throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. He was one of the first agents selected to participate in the Top Hoodlum Program (T.H.P.) when it was instituted. After Roemer retired, he wrote many books about his exploits trying to gain information in the early years of the T.H.P., while the tapping of phones and the planting of “bugs” (recording devices) were still illegal. Roemer wrote that when his bosses came to the men of the T.H.P. in order to install “bugs”, they referred to them as “black bag” jobs. This was because they would have to break into the house or office of the O.C. targets that they needed to “bug”. They were also told that they wanted ONLY “volunteers” for these jobs because they were, of course, illegal. They were also told that if they were caught in the process of breaking into these locations, they would be “hung out to dry” by the F.B.I. This meant that, if they were caught, the F.B.I. would be issuing a statement saying that these “were rouge agents and the F.B.I. would never O.K. a situation such as “breaking and entering” in order to gain information”.  As I said, Hoover NEVER let the law stand in his way of getting what he wanted.

Another technological innovation that law enforcement used whole-heartedly was video tape. Although photography has been used to document illegal transactions for years, the 70’s really brought to the fore the benefits of using home video cameras to document illegal meetings of criminals by law enforcement. Recently, I’ve seen on documentaries the early usage of movie cameras to film police officers receiving bribes in 1930/1940 New York City. There’s also footage of law enforcement filming the “open air” drug markets in Harlem in the late 1960s. The F.B.I. started videotaping O.C. figures in their everyday routines around the end of the 60s and into the 70s. It was of tremendous help to them in acquiring convictions in some of the biggest O.C. cases in history.

Cameras have also been a tremendous help in setting up security surveillance for homes and businesses. So many times the police have been able to solve crimes from burglary and armed robbery to battery and even murder because of surveillance camera positioned in such a way as to catch these criminals in the act. The interesting thing about these particular situations is the fact that, in so many of these cases, the cameras that have caught these criminals in the act weren’t necessarily set-up to record the areas that they ACTUALLY recorded. Whenever a crime is committed, one of the first things that law enforcement does is look around to see if there are any surveillance cameras that may have recorded the crime in question. In many instances, there was a camera set-up across the street to monitor a business but, because of the direction it was pointed, it actually was able to record a crime that had nothing to do with the business. These are they unintended consequences that occur once you start to utilize “technology.

Cell phones are now the “weapon of choice” for people who want to record “spur of the moment” incidents. Law enforcement can’t stand these things! Recently, I’ve seen numerous cell phone recordings, from average citizens, who have captured coppers committing all forms of malfeasance and brutality. Sometimes the individuals get away with recording these “incidents” without the coppers knowing that they’ve been recorded. Other times, though, they are caught by the coppers and you get a glimpse of just how far a copper is willing to go in order to not have his/her actions documented. Usually the cell phone is destroyed and the video is lost but in the few instances, where the individual has been able to pass the phone off, you see the brutal actions of the coppers as they take it out on the person who was doing the recording. In some instances, the person who recorded the copper is beaten worse than the initial case that the citizen was filming! Right now, I know of three organizations that use recordings (cell phones in most cases) to catch coppers in the act of malfeasance and brutality. “Cop Watchers Lake Tahoe” (on Facebook), “” and “Police the Police ACP” (also on Facebook) are doing a terrific job of catching coppers at their worst. Check out these three groups to get a better idea of just how bad this problem has become in American society today. Bravo, guys, bravo!

Now, I’ve just explained to you the problem that copper malfeasance and brutality has become in America today. I’ve also explained to you how law enforcement has, over the years, embraced the advances in technology in order to get a leg up on crime and criminals. I’ve also explained just what law enforcement is willing to do (break the law in the past) to GET WHAT THEY WANT! Now I want to tell you what I think is the answer to this problem.

There is a simple solution to this problem, equip all police officers with miniature cameras! It’s that simple! I know of one community police force that’s been doing this since February of 2012, Rialto, California. A few months ago, “Police the Police ACP” shared a photo on their Facebook page of a police officer wearing one of these cameras. According to statistics, since Rialto officers started wearing these cameras, the number of complaints filed against the Rialto Police Dept. DROPPED 88%! Can you imagine that! 88%! ALSO, the number of instances of Rialto police officers using “force” DROPPED 60%! UNBELIEVABLE! After seeing these statistics one has to ask the question, “Just what are ALL these other police forces WAITING FOR?!?!”  I’ll tell you what they are waiting for; a way to figure out how they can say that these cameras violate their officers’ constitutional rights. I have to tell you, I really admire the Police Chief from Rialto, Chief William Farrar. I’m sure he got some heavy pushback from his officers on this issue. Maybe I’m wrong but I find it hard to believe that there weren’t a few of his officers who were really against this situation. You see, equipping police officers with these cameras means that the bad coppers have to DO WHAT’S RIGHT in order to perform their job and bad coppers aren’t willing to do that. Let’s face it; most bad coppers joined the force so they could take out their frustrations on “the scum of the world”. I’m sure that most of my readers will agree with me on this point. Remember, I’m not talking about good, honest police officers here, I’m talking about bad, disgusting coppers! Of course they don’t want a camera on them every time they confront a citizen, that would “cramp their style”. Yet, those are EXACTLY the officers that we need to start monitoring with these cameras. I understand that this IS a touchy subject in terms of constitutional rights but the fact that the Department in Rialto has been using these cameras for two years now, with the results that they’ve achieved, should put to rest the whole  “officers’ rights” issue. What about the peoples’ rights? What about the rights of a guy named Rodney King? Thank God for the person who video tapped that fiasco! Yet, those officers still weren’t convicted! What these cameras are going to do is protect, not only the public, they will protect the officer as well. The officer will be protected from a public that is fed-up with copper brutality and is willing to lie NO MATTER WHAT just to get back at the police! Yes, folks, this is the BEST way to protect everyone. Just imagine what your average African-American goes through when he gets pulled over on the west side of Chicago. I know a few of these folks. They’re scared to death that, at any moment, they could be pulled over and the coppers could plant drugs in their cars while they were conducting a “search” of that car. It was only 12 -15 years ago that a whole “Special Operations Unit” of the Chicago Police Dept. was dis-banded and many of the officers convicted (a rare event) because of this very type of thing. Many of these folks are worried about being beat up if they get mad when one of these coppers refer to them as “nigger”. Folks, this is just the next step that innovations in technology allows for us to make as a society. What does it say about America, as a whole, if we allow this kind of copper malfeasance and brutality to continue when we have the solution to that very problem already in existence? It would say that America cares nothing of its vulnerable public. It would say that our willingness to prop up and continue to grow our prison system means more to us as a society than compassion for our disadvantaged population. It’s the disadvantaged people of our society who suffer the brunt of this abuse because they simply can’t afford to defend themselves with expensive attorney’s. It’s the disadvantaged who are the ones who are picked on because they maybe live in the streets because society has passed them over. Whatever the case may be, equipping our police officers with miniature cameras is what’s right to do for American society.

And that’s “As I Understand It Now... ‘til it changes”. Thanks for reading. Please let me know what you think. I ALWAYS appreciate the feedback.
Michael K. Stichauf

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Uncivil People on Social Networking Sites

            As everyone who follows my blog knows, I’ve had a terrible time with “Writers’ block”. Not only have I not been able to come up with a plausible idea to “blog” about, if I did have a thought, I didn’t have the “drive” to write about it. Boy, do I admire writers such as Mike Royko, John Kass, Mark Brown and Clarence Page. These writers had/have specific days and deadlines that they have to meet no matter what. “Writer’s block”, are you kidding me? These men didn’t have the luxury of telling their editors that they have writers’ block and wouldn’t be delivering a column that day. Nope, they delivered! Day in and day out you could count on opening up their paper and there was their column.

 "It’s usually the old standbys such as politics and religion, which cause people to revert to the “Mr. Hyde” portion of their personalities. With the huge explosion of social media, people have quite a few outlets to express themselves."
          Today, I want to talk about those “Uncivil people” who troll the Web looking for someone with whom to argue. I’m trying to be professional by referring to them as “uncivil people”, as opposed to a couple of other names I’d prefer to use. The longer I “blog” and travel the Web, the more I realize just how big of a problem this really is.
          The Web has become a terrific vehicle for individuals to post their outlook and views on everything from cooking, child rearing, home improvement and gardening. These subjects don’t normally bring out the “nastiness” in people. It’s usually the old standbys such as politics and religion, which cause people to revert to the “Mr. Hyde” portion of their personalities. With the huge explosion of social media, people have quite a few outlets to express themselves. Facebook isn’t really one of the sites that bring out the worst in people. It’s Google+ and blog hosting sites such as Blogger and Wordpress where people really feel the need to let loose with their “nastiness.

"I can’t tell you how many times, once I’ve posted my views about a certain political point, I receive “nasty”, ridiculous comments." 

A good many of my blog posts revolve around politics so I know what I’m talking about. No, I don’t mean that I know what I’m talking about in regards to politics; I’m referring to people getting “nasty”. I can’t tell you how many times, once I’ve posted my views about a certain political point, I receive “nasty”, ridiculous comments. It’s these comments, as well as original posts that spew hate and nastiness, that I want to talk about.
I, for one, believe that the social networking sites are terrific for our society. Yes, they have their drawbacks (the recent stories of online “bullying” being the first to come to mind) but, overall, they serve as places for people to express themselves. Obviously, something that society needed considering the explosion we’ve witnessed over the years. Although it took me longer than most, I’ve finally joined the online social networking community in the last year now. A few months ago, I finally decided that I’d actually participate instead of just looking. I joined Google + and started a blog, thinking I had something to say that someone might appreciate. Well, I don’t know if so many people appreciate what I’ve written but I certainly can tell you that there are quite a few people who DON’T APPRECIATE what I’ve written. They let you know in no uncertain terms.

"I’m learning that there is a whole world of “gray” out there and most opinions lie somewhere in that shade."

Being new to this whole “blogging” and “posting” thing, I realized early on that just because someone disagrees with me doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It doesn’t mean they’re right either. I’m learning that there is a whole world of “gray” out there and most opinions lie somewhere in that shade. I’m learning also that, if I’m smart, I can learn a WHOLE LOT from comments people make on my posts. This is why I titled my Blog, “As I understand it now... ‘til it changes” I certainly don’t have a lock on what’s right and wrong. If I keep an open mind, I can learn from everyone and my opinions may change because of it.
What I really have a problem with are those people who are “trolling” the internet LOOKING for a FIGHT! I’m sure we ALL know the kind of people I’m talking about. You can tell who these people are from the get-go. All you have to do, once you get one of their “nasty” comments, is click on their Google+ name and it brings you right to their G+ site. It only takes a minute to see that their G+ posts sound as “nasty” and negative as their comment on your G+ post or Blog site. These are the people who start their comments to you by saying, “You are a no-good asshole if you believe this.” Or, “You left-wing (or right-wing- I’ve been accused of being both) jag-off, it’s because of you that this country is going to hell in a handbasket". But the best ones are the ones that combine this kind of talk with ALL CAPITAL LETTERS! For example, “IT’S JERKS LIKE YOU WHO RUIN EVERYTHING FOR US FREEDOM LOVING AMERICANS”. LOL I’m sorry but sometimes these folks are as funny as they are rude. These ALL CAPS people are the people who, when in a verbal discussion, START TO SHOUT AND TALK OVER YOU BECAUSE THEY AREN’T GETTING THEIR WAY IN THE DISCUSSION. It’s kind of like a 5 year old when they aren’t getting what they want.

"...the word “freedom” is their way of telling everyone that the constitution allows them the “freedom” TO DO WHATEVER THE HELL THEY WANT TO DO, WITHOUT ANY REPERCUSSIONS!"

The ones that get me the most though, are the ones that want to let you know just how bad a person you are because you are depriving them of their freedom that the constitution guarantees for them. You can tell these people right away because they refer to the word “freedom” 2-3 times in the first sentence. They tend to be the ones that everyone would consider, “right-wing, survivalist, extremists”. I get very leery when I hear or read someone who uses “my freedom”, every other word. These are the kind of people who feel that the word “freedom” is their way of telling everyone that the constitution allows them the “freedom” TO DO WHATEVER THE HELL THEY WANT TO DO, WITHOUT ANY REPERCUSSIONS! You know, if they want to pull a gun on you, well,” the constitution guarantees my right to bear arms”. Forget about the part where you aren’t supposed to commit murder. These people don’t realize that we live in a different world and things change. But, I digress (I’ve been dying to use that phrase). What really gets me about these people isn’t actually their views, it’s the way they go about expressing them. You can bet that they were bullies growing up (that’s assuming that they actually are grown-up). According to them, if your views are different than theirs, then you are, “A NO GOOD ASSHOLE JERK” (an actual quote I received).
I’ve been able to get to the point where I don’t “bite” anymore on their bait. I’ll usually respond by trying to placate them or just telling them that it’s OK that we don’t agree and, by the way, “Thanks for your comment”. You really can’t argue with an irrational individual. I’m NOT saying that ALL right-wing extremists are irrational, just the ones who refuse to listen to logic. There are plenty of “Left-wing extremists”, also. What they simply don’t seem to understand is how much more people MIGHT be willing to listen, if they would just stop ATTACKING EVERYONE WHO DISAGREE with them. I have no problem with people who disagree with me. I love a rational, non-threatening discussion. NO ONE LISTENS WHEN THEY ARE YELLED AT OR ATTACKED! That’s a fact.
I understand that most people that this applies to will never change. That being said, hopefully, we can get to a point though, where we can discuss our differences without all the “mud-slinging” and name-calling. We have enough problems in this country to hash out and we might make a start by talking to each other and not yelling.
That’s, “As I understand it now ...’til it changes.” Thanks for listening. Let me know what you think.

Michael K. Stichauf