Category Archives: American Justice

A Question of Honor, or the lack thereof

A Question of Honor,

or the lack thereof

by: john harrison

Serious athletes should avoid at least three of of the Ivy League universities in the future. So should all serious students intent on an education. Real gentlemen and real ladies need not apply, they will not be welcome there.

New Jersey’s Princeton University has suspended its entire men’s Swim Team over the offensive content on a team message service. This marked the third such action against an Ivy League athletic squad since this November, 2016. The move comes after New York’s Columbia University suspended its wrestling team and Harvard University in Massachusetts canceled its men’s soccer season.

However, collective punishment is simply wrong. It is both absolutely wrong headed and utterly ignoble to knowingly punish innocent people on purpose, no matter how noble the aim, no matter how pure the goal. The ends do not justify the means. How often must we relearn this? It is basic to a civilized society. One would have hoped that a truly great university would have understood this. Sadly, one would have been wrong, three times in a row.

Common sense tells anyone that collective punishment is lazy, counterproductive and particularly unfair to those who follow the rules. Clearly common sense, ethics and even simple morality are in short supply even at the highest levels at Princeton, Harvard and Columbia universities.

In Discipline with Dignity, a respected classroom management book by Richard Curwin and Allen Mendler, the conclusion is clear: “Group punishments are almost always ineffective. They generate resentment in the innocent students who learn to think that they might as well break the rules because they will be punished anyway, and they teach the rule violators that they will not have to take responsibility for their actions. Focus instead on teaching correct behavior through natural and logical consequences.” It is extraordinary that Columbia, Princeton and Harvard need to relearn this.

Let us remember again that the ends never justify the means. Mussolini may well have made the trains run on time. Togo may well have wanted to solve the critical Japanese problem of lack of natural resources. And, Stalin may have been a sincere communist. However, what all three of these have in common is that they all, along with Hitler and all the other despots from the beginning of time, repeatedly engaged in collective punishment. Collective punishment is a weapon, it is a preferred tool, of a tyrant. Innocence is not only not a defense, it is not even relevant.

Collective punishment, is absolutely banned under international law. Think about that for a minute. Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishment is defined as a war crime. What have Columbia, Harvard and Princeton done? Where is the outrage?

Anyone that goes to Princeton, Harvard or Columbia do so at the risk of their athletic career, and their much more importantly, of their very soul. They will not be taught to excel, they will be taught that only power matters, not law, not morality, not ethics, just raw power.

If the problem at these universities was really an entire team culture issue, then that is a coach problem and easily solvable. A team should reflect the culture of the university. Unfortunately, it seems that the Harvard soccer team, the Princeton swim team and the Columbia wrestling team do reflect what can only be described as an abusive culture at these universities, and in the worst possible way.

The leaders of these three universities should be ashamed. The NCAA should investigate and punish these universities for their reprehensible actions. They have dishonored themselves and their universities in the most basic of ways. Of all of the people in America, they should have known better. We trusted them with our youth. They have abused our trust, and our children.

 

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Why We Need Presidential Electors

Why We Need Presidential Electors

by  john harrison

Every four years some people express surprise to find out that they live in a republic rather than a democracy. This year as in in several other presidential elections they express surprise that it is not only possible but happens fairly often that a candidate for president will win the popular vote but still lose the election.

It was designed that way on purpose. If we did not have such a system; if it was a straight question of majority rule; then, a candidate might only campaign in California, Texas, Florida and New York since those four states alone comprise over one third of the total population of the United States, and they vote. You would never see such a candidate in North Carolina, Virginia or any state where the election was close because already about half of the votes in such a state are in effect already “taken”. They would only go to states where they had a huge base because that is only place they could go that would make a difference in the success or failure of their campaign.

Simply stated, that would be bad for our democratic republic. In fact, her failure to satisfactorily confront her problems was at least part of Sec. Clinton’s problem in the last campaign. Our current system requires candidates to go to exactly to the places in the country where the real issues of that campaign are being fought out. That is why they are called “battleground ” states. These states change fairly regularly as new states, like Michigan, come into play.

Finally, the people in the small states are not dumb. They know the only reason the candidates ever stop by during a campaign is because of their electoral votes. Any change would require them to agree to give that up. Not likely.

Dog Bites Man, Man Bites Back

Dog Bites Man, Man Bites Back

by john harrison

Two items of interest, both almost hidden in the news this morning (4/28/2016). People Magazine and other sources are reporting that Harvard has fielded the first openly transgender man to compete in NCAA Division 1 sports. The second is that a House Committee has passed legislation requiring women to register for the draft.

The law of unintended consequences is about to bite back hard. While it may well be true that it would would be strange even for an adolescent male to claim female gender identity just to peek at women in the bathroom, it goes way to far not to recognize that there are a lot of second tier male athletes that could make a lot of money, get into a lot of colleges that would otherwise be closed, if they competed in college level sports as a woman. A transgender competing as a man just opened that door.

While Bobby Riggs lost a famous tennis match against Billie Jean King years ago, nonetheless he could have made a lot of money playing as a woman on the woman’s tennis tour. Others will see this as an opportunity and act on it. All of the advances women have made in sports due to Title 9 are now at risk. Think if Caitlyn Jenner competed, probably even today.

The opening of the draft to women is the logical result of opening all combat positions in the armed services to women. While some expected that putting women in combat positions would lead to the end of the draft for everybody, the exact opposite is now moving forward in Congress.

The House Armed Services Committee approved legislation requiring women to register for the draft. In 1981 the Supreme Court ruled that since women were banned from combat positions anyway, it was not discriminatory to require only men to register for the draft. Anyone with knowledge of that case recognized that opening combat positions to women placed young women at risk of being drafted for those same positions.

It may still happen that that the draft will be abolished rather than add women to the lists. On the other hand we live in a dangerous world; we are in a shooting war in at least some sense in the Middle East already; but our armed force strength is relatively low and going lower. People think that the draft was instituted to raise large armies and in part that is true, but most of all it was created to deliver reliably the exact number of men that could be trained at any given time. It does not overstate the case to say that in the future a president may well be faced with the horrific choice of either bringing back the draft for everybody or to go nuclear on the battlefield.

The two leading presidential candidates who will deal with these important issues for all of us are Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump. I for one am more sanguinary than sanguine about our prospects.

Sample–You Must Remember This, or more accurately, the new rules of play

by: john harrison

They had all looked up when she came into the dark wood paneled front room at Clyde’s Bar in Georgetown. Even the women stared. She had long, wavy, dark auburn hair that fell to her shoulders. It was pinned back around her head with just a little loose to frame her face and then at her neck. That long hair draped free and in profusion down her back.

She was wearing a striped mock t-neck cotton sweater that was mostly a cream white, but it had a large blue stripe over her ample breasts, a smaller emerald green stripe below, and a still smaller red strip above. This topped off Kelly green reverse pleated trousers covering her extraordinarily long legs, and then flat deck shoes.

She was tall and trim and still moved like the athlete she had been. Her eyes flashed dark blue, almost purple behind sensible, thin wire framed glasses. The glasses made her eyes look even larger. She knew they also hid the beginning lines at her eyes better than makeup ever could.

When she sat down at the table next to Chris Jones you could almost hear the room relax as every man there let his stomach out and began to breathe again. Chris Jones was a little taller than she was sitting there. However, really they looked so much alike, they could have been brother and sister. He stood politely as she sat down.

Chris Jones felt like he was in high school again. He was reasonably good looking, a small time competitive swimmer in college and still in shape, but on one would call him striking like the woman. He could think of nothing to say.

         “Could I have a light please? she asked. Her voice was deep and smooth just as he had remembered it.

“Of course.” he replied. He fumbled for the matches he had picked up from the bar, and when he leaned over to light her cigarette, she lightly grasped his hand to steady the flame.


 

This is just a short preview of my short story “You Must Remember This”. Sometimes you can tell the truth better in fiction. The link below takes you to the rest of this short story. It is only available on Amazon in Kindle. What you have read so far is the lead up to a story about how relationships have changed. This is only a sample, just the first part of the Kindle short story “You Must Remember This”. If you have enjoyed this preview and want to find out what happens next, you may read the rest at:

http://www.amazon.com/You-Must-Remember-This-accurately-ebook/dp/B016FNK97O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446241305&sr=8-1&keywords=You+must+remember+this+by+john+harrison

Demand Change

by john harrison

On June 11, 1963 Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire on a street in Saigon.

Last night, Wednesday May 13, 2015, 53-year-old Thomas Murphy, a veteran drove to the infamous VA headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, and killed himself. Thomas Murphy and Thích Quảng Đức both committed suicide to make a statement, and they believed in their anger that they could make it stronger by giving their lives in making that statement.

It was the same, except that the Buddhist monk made the front page everywhere, except that people cared about the Buddhist monk, except that 22 American veterans do this every day, so it is not really news anymore. That’s sad. It is good that people cared about Thích Quảng Đức. It is sad that the American veteran, Thomas Murphy died alone, and so far un-noticed.

This is the only story I saw about Thomas murphy’s suicide: http://www.fox10phoenix.com/story/29037856/2015/5/12/vet-commits-suicide-on-va-administration-grounds

Thomas Murphy has wasted his life only if we do nothing. Demand change.

If you really want to thank a veteran for their service–demand change.

It is time to light a fire. Demand change.

We do not want people fired, we want effective heath care for those American veterans that need it; that earned it. Demand change.

This Mockingbird Was Fired, Not Killed

By: john harrison

My lawsuit against Bishop O’Connell High School was tried over three days in front of Judge Daniel Fiore II in Arlington Circuit Court. Rather than face a jury and admit that although Bishop O’Connell had acknowledged months before that it owed me $1,570.40 in salary that it still refused to pay almost three years after it was due, on the first day of trial the school finally agreed to just pay me the back salary it still owed.

So, that was a clear win on Count I (Breach of Contract-Suit for Salary Due and Unpaid) of my lawsuit. Up until trial the school had been refusing to pay me the money it had already admitted that it owed months before unless I signed a confidentiality agreement keeping both payment of past due salary and the school’s refusal to pay back salary it had admitted owing a secret. Since I declined to keep these facts secret Bishop O’Connell would not agree to pay until the judge got on their case and they finally dropped their demand for a confidentiality agreement on the first day of trial. Score one for the good guys.

The result in Count II (Breach of Contract-Wrongful Termination) was not as good. Because they had handed me a check for the full amount due before the trial opened, the jury never learned that O’Connell had already admitted breaching my contract in Count I while they considered whether it had also breached it a second time under Count II.

Under Count II the Bishop O’Connell attorney urged the jury to find that under the contract the school had broad discretion to fire and that the student demonstrations, whether or not I had anything to do with those demonstrations, were a sufficient trigger to fire me.

In the alternative, she argued that it was important that the new assistant tennis coach/social studies teacher Mark Borgiasz had testified that he had seen three students, including Julie Olafsson one of the leaders of the student demonstration, enter my classroom at the beginning of first period and later at the end of first period he had seen them in the Chapel with the other demonstrators. She urged that the Borgiasz testimony allowed the jury to infer that I knew of and had encouraged the student demonstrations. Therefore, she said, the school was justified in firing me simply to help end the student demonstrations.

In any event, because the jury found for the school; and I did not get the $10,000 remaining on my contract when the school fired me.

Since the school did not even try for a motion to dismiss at the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case it was clear to everyone in the courtroom that the issue of whether the firing was proper needed to be rebutted by evidence from the school. The case was not going away. However, since juries do not have to explain their verdicts we will probably never know which of O’Connell’s arguments the jury bought.

Early in the trial the Bishop O’Connell attorney asked me when I was testifying whether it was true that I had asked Julie Olafsson to testify but that she had refused. My attorney objected and the judge directed me not to answer since the question was clearly improper under the rules. However, it was a nice bit of lawyer set up for Mr. Borgiasz’s testimony, since the school somehow knew that Julie had told me she could not come to the trial because of commitments at her college in North Carolina. While Julie and the others did not come to my classroom at the beginning of first period and then leave in time to get to join the student demonstrators in the chapel, and therefore Mr. Borgiasz’s testimony that he had seen them do that was wrong; any logician will tell you that it is impossible to prove a negative.

At the trial we learned that the students had been respectfully praying in the chapel on April 17th 2012 during 1st period when Dr. Vorbach broke the sanctuary and ordered them out. We also found out that my initial non-renewal and subsequent termination were all Dr. Vorbach’s ideas, not Ms Prebble’s. And, that the school believes that its contract gives it the discretion to fire a teacher even if the teacher had no part in whatever was causing the school’s problems. That really should give pause to every teacher still working at O’Connell.

Meanwhile, Superdance made less than $100,000 this year, or put another way, less than half of what it has made in the past, and the Soup drive struggles as well.  While Michael J. Donohue, a spokesman for the Arlington Catholic Diocese which owns and operates Bishop O’Connell, told the media after the student protest of my firing that, “change is difficult” I doubt that this was the kind of change he was looking forward to under the new administration at Bishop O’Connell.  It gets worse though.

Since Dr. Vorbach arrived at Bishop O’Connell, multiple serious scandals have plagued his administration. A senior Bishop O’Connell employee used a school check for a political contribution. This is improper for a 501(c) 3 institution and it imperiled the tax-exempt status of the entire Arlington Catholic Diocese.  If you believe the school’s explanation, it was technically an embezzlement of school funds. If that was true why does the employee still work there? Why does he still handle school funds? Why is he still authorized to sign school checks?

There have been repeated allegations of cheating by the Bishop O’Connell boys basketball program that it knowingly used an overage player, Junior Etou, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many have wondered why this diocese high school in Arlington, Virginia, would be recruiting even eligible high school basketball players from the over 6,500 miles away Democratic Republic of the Congo in the first place.

In addition, the school’s basketball program had a close association (they practiced in the Bishop O’Connell gym, they had their own key to the school, they supplied well over half of the varsity basketball players), with an AAU sports organization run by the now twice-convicted drug dealer, Curtis Malone.

According to Sports Illustrated, while this already convicted drug dealer was so closely associated with O’Connell he was convicted a second time of selling large quantities of both heroin and cocaine out of his home in Prince Georges County. Like several DC Assault players, Junior Etou lived in the drug dealer’s home while he was on the Bishop O’Connell varsity basketball team.

Another former DC Assault player, Michael Beasley, also lived with Curtis Malone at about the same time. While he made it to the NBA, Beasley has struggled with repeated drug related issues.

Worse, according to Deadspin one of the basketball players, supplied to the Bishop O’Connell varsity basketball team by the drug dealer’s sport organization DC Assault, had nonconsensual sex on school grounds with an underage Bishop O’Connell student. Worse still, another basketball player, also supplied to the school’s varsity basketball team by the drug dealer’s sport organization, took a video of the sex act on Bishop O’Connell school grounds and posted it on the internet. Unbelievably, Dr. Vorbach did not discipline either of the student varsity basketball players, nor fire an assistant coach, a coach, a teacher, or an administrator for failing to supervise students that they were responsible for while the students were on school grounds. Nor did he cut the Bishop O’Connell ties to the drug dealer’s sports organization. That is strange.

Stranger still, according to Deadspin again, at least six current Bishop O’Connell varsity basketball players come from the close ties the school still has to the successor to the convicted drug dealer’s sports organization, DC Premier. Unfortunately, DC Premier is run by the same men that had helped the twice convicted drug dealer Curtis Malone run DC Assault.

But, the theme Dr. Vorbach chose for the 2011-2012 school year had been “Integrity.”

While it would be nice to have won Count II as well as Count I, everyone that has had experience with jury trials knows that the fact that the judge allowed the jury to decide the issue means that it was an open question and therefore the result could have gone either way.

Katelyn Stoskus came back from college and testified for me. It takes guts to stand up to a skilled trial lawyer’s cross-examination, but Kate was superb. Andrew Mills also took two days off from work to testify, but the O’Connell witnesses admitted everything he was going to say under cross-examination so he finally got to watch the trial for a while. “Boomer” Buckreis and Ms Prebble were the most helpful O’Connell witnesses for us.

Other students and former students came by the courtroom to lend support as did several parents of students and former students as well. They all got a chance to see the American justice system at work.

I loved teaching the students at Bishop O’Connell; even Ms Prebble admitted at the trial that my classes had been “life changing” for many students. In fact everyone at the trial that said anything about my teaching was highly complimentary. I was humbled by the support that the students gave me after I was fired and I hope to continue the friendships we formed while I was there. I particularly want to thank Katelyn Stoskus, Andrew Mills, Julie Olfasson, Alexa Gennings, Maddy Lynch, and all of the others, students, parents and teachers, that supported me.

While Bishop O’Connell High School seems now to be in a downward spiral with enrollment dropping  to about two-thirds of what it was when I was there even though it now accepts nearly every student that applies, and it is still hemorrhaging most of its best and experienced teachers, it may yet recover and be again the almost mystical place of learning it once was. . .

The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story

by: john harrison

The rest of the story, as newsman Paul Harvey used to say, about me and Ruthann Aron is complicated. Ms Aron was tried for her crimes twice. The first trial resulted in a hung jury. A juror had lied about her work experience, apparently to get on the jury, and then refused to convict Ruthann. The vote on the jury was 11 to 1. The judge then declared a mistrial. The second trial resulted in a guilty plea on two counts of murder solicitation almost all the way through and a three-year jail sentence, plus considerable probation time from the judge.

Ms Aron served her time in jail uneventfully and after her release went to live with her son in New York. Unfortunately, her son Joshua worked at the Twin Towers and was killed on 9/11. Then, she went to live for a while with her daughter, Dana, in Florida. As a convicted felon on probation, someone had to be responsible for her.  Now, I do not know where she is.

No surprise, she and her husband were divorced. It was very messy, also no surprise. The state had already charged that she had poisoned her husband’s chili one night trying to kill him, now she said that her husband had committed medical malpractice on her while they were married.  They each sued the other for millions. There was also some discussion about her boob job, although I never understood how that was relevant. Messy, very messy.

There is a lot more information about about her on the net, (search: Ruthann Aron) and there have even been a couple of television shows about her, which are on YouTube (e.g. , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aje_KUSLidQ&index=7&list=PLSCCJjdC-jc5u1WSGI3l1uEkDkNeVC1Ml, or search Ruthann Aron) there you can learn all you ever wanted to know about Ruthann Aron: the former Republican US Senate candidate, former Republican turned Democrat, nonetheless gun loving-Potomac matron, lawyer-real estate developer, chili cooking, hit man hiring-homicidal, crazy- yes but nonetheless always loving wife, mother of two and, convicted felon Ruthann Aron.

So, that is the rest of the story.