Happy First Father’s Day!

Daddy Joe and Clark Boy Heading For The Donuts!!

Dearest Joe;  I could not get out this week due to Heavy Rain


Happy First Father’s Day!

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My Father Wold Have Been One Hundred – A Re-Post For Father’s Day

poppa and grandma

My father and grandmother – Easter 1943

My father would have been 100 years old on Thursday.

Not my grandfather or great-grandfather; my father.

He never made it to 57. I received a phone call in the middle of a cold January night from my youngest brother with the news that Poppa had passed. I had just seen him at Christmas.

Poppa and I had our differences but we made our peace that Christmas. My wife and I were expecting our first child after ten years of marriage. Poppa would pass in less than a month and baby Daniel Jason would pass as well in June; 1973 was not a very good year.

My father Domenico was born on January 12th, 1917, the youngest of five children of Italian immigrants Francesco and Laura who arrived in this country in 1906. He was born at home in a cold water flat on Broome Place in lower Manhattan.

I never knew he was born at home until I obtained a copy of his birth certificate. I never knew his given name was Domenico. Everyone called him Danny.

Francesco previously had three children from his first marriage to Antonia in Italy. Antonia died and the widower with three children began courting my grandmother Laura while planning to go to America. Would a young woman be interested in marrying a man with three children and leaving her home and family for good for a new life and adventure?

I have no idea how Laura made her decision or indeed if she made the decision herself. They married in November 1905 and Francesco left for America with his oldest boy in January 1906. Laura followed with the other two children in March.  They never saw Italy again although Laura’s sister would follow with her husband several years later.

They had five more – my father Domenico was the youngest.

As a young man Danny was quite good looking in that Italian sort of way. Slender, muscular and dark with a pencil mustache.

Danny had only one problem. He had epilepsy.

He had been hit by a car as a child while riding his bicycle and suffered a head injury. At least that is what I have been told by people who would know. Maybe it is true. Maybe not.

Epilepsy was something one never talked about in those days.


The general attitude of people at the time was (a) its hereditary – or worse – contagious ; (b) it was associated with “feeble mindedness” and violence and (c) many thought those with epilepsy needed to be institutionalized.   Our family always feared the state health department.

Eugenics was all the rage in America. Many states would not permit those with epilepsy to marry. Missouri was the last to repeal this law in 1980!. Blood banks wouldn’t take your blood until 1987. Employers would fire you after the first seizure on the job. General practitioner physicians had little to offer you and patients were afraid they would be reported to the health department.

Danny had to leave school after the 8th grade because of the disease. No epileptics allowed.

I was twelve years old the first time I saw my father seize. It was the first time I saw him cry because it happened in front of me.

My mother warned me not to breathe a word of it to anyone – not to my friends, not at school, not to my younger brothers.

During the depression dad joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. There was no work for an Italian with an 8th grade education. It seemed like a good idea. He was sent to California to work at Yosemite – and then sent home after a seizure.

He was of course unfit for military service when war came. I had often wondered while growing up why Poppa wasn’t in the war – seemed that eveyone’s father was in the war.

By this time he had married my mother, Mary. She had lived across the street with her 4 brothers and sisters. Her mother died and the State in it’s wisdom would not permit an Italian immigrant with no wife to raise five children. She was sent to an orphanage run by the Benedictines  in Manhattan..

When she turned 18, high school diploma in hand, she had to leave the orphanage so she returned home with her little suitcase.  She never went to church again.

Her father, my maternal grandfather had remarried and was not interested in taking his grown children in – even temporarily. My mom had a few bucks, no job and couldn’t drive. My father’s mother, Grandma Laura took her in off of the streets when she saw her sitting on the curb.

Romance blossomed between Mary and Danny..

After a few months however Laura put her foot down. Mary’s baby sister, my aunt T, still alive, bless her, tells me Laura would not have the neighbors talking about her family. Laura made it clear to Danny – marry her or Mary will have to leave the house. Laura couldn’t have a single woman living in the same apartment permanently, especially when the girl’s father lived across the street. Danny asked. Mary accepted.

So on November 25, 1941 Domenico and Mary married at St. Bernadette’s R. C. Church, where I would be baptized and eventually married myself.


My father at my First Communion party – circa 1950.  I always thought he looked like Chuck Berry.  His older brother Angelo is to his right playing air guitar.  My youngest brother Nicholas in the foreground.  Everyone is long gone.

Danny now had responsibilities. The primary issue was how to make a living.

He had no education. He had no health insurance nor the money to see a neuro-specialist. Our local Italian pharmacist gave him Dilantin and Phenobarbitol without prescription which poppa took everyday. Many times as a kid I picked up his drugs. Nobody would suspect a kid.

Eventually he got a job; the only job he could get; a job as a common laborer, pushing a wheel barrow eight hours a day for an Italian owned construction company. A few months after starting work he joined the union. He carried cement and mortar from the mixers to the brick layers. Nothing but brawn and sweat. No brains required. No thinking required. Just the labor of a poor man with a wife and eventually three kids. His bosses knew he had epilepsy.

He did the work everyday his working life. He went to work rain or shine. If it rained he came home. You didn’t get paid when you didn’t work. Many weeks in Winter he had no work.

Union membership came with health benefits. He got his epilepsy under reasonable control – I only saw him have two more seizures all of his life.

When we needed a bigger apartment with the birth of my youngest brother we rented a small house. Several years later the owner wanted it for his own son. We moved.


Mom and dad in front of our house on Bay 53rd Street – circa 1957.  The ghost behind the door is me.

Poppa was able to buy us a two bedroom “bungalow” on the fringes of Coney Island – on a dirt street. I slept on a Castro Convertible in the living room while my two brothers shared a tiny bedroom in bunk beds.

Poppa paid $5,000 for the house. The former owners held the mortgage privately. It wasn’t much of a house even by standards of the day but we always had a roof over our heads and food on our table and serviceable clothes to wear. We always had the necessities of life. No vacations. No fancy car – a ’51 blue Chevy. Hand me down clothes. But we were never hungry or homeless.

Poppa never earned more than $10,000 in any year his entire life. Most years it was more like $7,000 – 8,000.

He was able to shelter, clothe and raise a family on what he was able to earn himself. Mom was always home for us. He was paid a living wage for his sweat. The owners still made plenty of money as did their competitors, the Trumps who also were building low-mid rise apartment buildings all over Brooklyn and Queens. Donald Trump’s father paid union wages and still left a fortune of $400 million to Donald and his siblings.

And he was able to make his way in the world only because he was a union man. He had a dignity and pride in his work and would point out apartment buildings and projects that he had worked on if we passed them on a Sunday drive.

He never considered his work demeaning or of no consequence – his sweat mark is still everywhere in Bensonhurst and Flushing. His work had a dignity of its own because a union wage allowed him to care for those he loved.

He never felt like a slave. He was a worker and was never ashamed of what he did or what he was. And he knew what he was. He wasn’t “middle class” or “white collar”. He had no way to make a living but to sell his labor. He knew he was a worker and in solidarity with all others who had no accumulated wealth to live on. But because he earned a living wage he had dignity.

It was all he ever wanted. A fair wage, a little house, an education and a future for his children; a comfortable old age.

He could look forward to a union pension when he retired as well as social security. He never made it. He died at 56 from emphysema – probably from all of those years breathing in cement dust.

My youngest brother passed over ten years ago. My remaining brother and I wound up bankers and Wall Streeters – but we never forgot from whence we came – and all the others now making the same journey.

A living wage gives dignity to work and to the men and women who toil at those “menial” jobs. It gives them the self respect to look you in the eye without shame, knowing they too can care for their own. If you can support your family or support yourself on what you earn, the job is no longer by definition “menial”

This nation will not live up to its ideals until all within her jurisdiction can obtain basic medical care. All within her jurisdiction receive adequate nourishment; all within her jurisdiction have shelter; all receive a quality education. And all who work full time receive a living wage.

Don’t say we don’t have the money. We know where the money is.

So happy birthday Poppa wherever you are – kiss Momma, Nickie, Daniel and Michael for me. And give the love of my life Joann a special hug.


He thought for a moment
and wrote on a blank space
inside the front cover
of my high school year book

“May your days be filled
with happiness
with just a moment of sorrow
so you know the difference”

Scrawled by the calloused hand
of a working man
blessed and cursed
by life’s vicissitudes

May 22, 1959


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Tampa Lightning

After a long dry “winter,” the rainy season has returned to Florida’s western coast with intermittent rains last week followed by a torrential tropical downpour late yesterday afternoon.  The dark shelf clouds rolled in off of the Gulf of Mexico complete with thunder and lightning, beginning the summer refill of the receding great swamp behind my house.  

It was also accompanied by a power outage.  So after a few hours went by with no power and the sun began to set I retrieved my hurricane flashlight and got the candles ready for a darkened evening.  The temperatures had cooled considerably after the rains so I opened the back doors as it become cooler outside than in.

After speaking with my daughters I shut off the cell phone to conserve the battery should I need it.  And as the sun set over the swamp it was time to move to a comfortable chair out in the screened lanai to listen to the sounds of the Florida night critters.

The sand hill cranes were making quite a racket having seemingly enjoyed the chance to shower.  A mated pair walked proudly by in a line, their chick walking between them, totally ignoring me.  The procession of the living goes on.

Herons gathered at the edge of the water, hunting and pecking for their next meal, while a large tortoise crossed the empty road slowly moving toward the swamp.

How indifferent the life of the swamp to my quiet presence.

The power came on eventually but I continued to sit in the dark; the internet was also down so I had no computer ,television or land line phone.  Might as well have no power.

So I sat, lit a cigar and poured myself a fine scotch neat, thinking of the hot summer nights of my youth sitting on a fire escape in my tightie whities, my back against the brown brick, listening to the sounds of the city.  

Now in the dark I listen to the sounds of insects, croaking frogs, birds and armadillos coming out of their flooded holes in the ground.  I swore I could hear the snakes.

Behind my home

Thunder and lightning
sturm und drang rolling o’er the bay;
low on the horizon
comes an electric storm of hail
breaking havoc, blowing transformers

leaving us in sparks and darkness
with only the sound of crickets and frogs,
the silence of my youth;
As I embrace a lounge chair in gentle sleep

you join me; kiss me
sharing the chair, limbs perfect and trembling
and we are young again
until you are gone
just like that,
awakened to the sounds of the lineman.




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On Population

When I was a cute young tike in elementary school in the early 1950s, the answer to the question “How many people live in the United States?” was “150 million Mrs. Fiore!”.

Clever boy.  Very clever boy.

In the years since I was a kid, in one single not yet completed lifetime, the population of the United States has grown to 336 million, give or take.

Today there are more than 2 people walking around my country for every single person I saw as a child.  All of them need food, shelter, education, jobs, clothing, healthcare, care in their old age and all will have dreams.

Further, when I was born, the U. N. Population clock tells me that the total population of the world on September 10,1942 was 2.349 billion.  Today it is 7.511 billion.  The population of the planet has more than trebled in my as yet uncompleted lifetime.

While the United States population has grown to 326 million and is now the world’s third largest, both China and India each have one billion more people than us.

    1  China 1,387,932,22

2 India 1,341,711,001

3 U.S.A. 326,354,088

4 Indonesia 263,360,725
5 Brazil 211,157,886

6 Pakistan 196,543,664

7 Nigeria 191,586,910

8 Bangladesh 164,729,909

9 Russia 143,378,295

10 Mexico 130,141,619

11 Japan 126,059,329

12 Ethiopia 104,217,010

13 Philippines 103,717,786

14 Vietnam 95,365,157

15 Egypt 95,121,304

16 D.R. Congo 82,112,909

17 Iran 80,899,674

18 Germany 80,638,469

19 Turkey 80,376,970

When I saw the above list of the countries with the world’s largest populations I was a bit surprised by some of the entrants.  The relative positions of Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Congo, Bangladesh and Ethiopia were not where I would have expected.

Empty Russia

And the population of Russia at 143.4 million,  is less than half of that of the United States while controlling the largest land mass on earth.  Russia was only one spot ahead of Mexico and that my friends constitutes a long term strategic issue for Russia and the rest of the planet.  The population density of Russia is only 9 people per square kilometer compared to 96 for the U.S., 452 in India and 1,266 in Bangladesh.  Russia controls a lot of empty space.  Since the fall of the U.S.S.R. and the closing of the collective farms, some 20,000 villages have been completely abandoned and another 30,000 have ten or fewer inhabitants.

It took all of man’s existence on earth until 1804 to reach a total population of 1 billion and we didn’t reach 2 billion until 1927.  We reached 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion in 1974 and 5 billion in 1987. Six billion was reached in 1999 and 7 billion in 2011.  We are expected to reach 8 billion in 2023 and 10 billion by 2056.

Clearly a tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).

During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.  In 1970, there were roughly half as many people in the world as there are now.

Not that space is a problem.  It has been argued that the entire world population could fit inside of France creating a density similar to metropolitan Paris, a gigantic “city,”  leaving the entire remainder of the planet to grow food and for all other species.

Population in the world is currently growing at a rate of around 1.11% per year (down from 1.13% in 2016). The current average population change is estimated at around 80 million per year.

Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2% and above. The rate of increase has therefore almost halved since its peak of 2.19 percent, which was reached in 1963.

The annual growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years. Currently, it is estimated that it will become less than 1% by 2020 and less than 0.5% by 2050.  This means that world population will continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a slower rate compared to the recent past.  Maybe.

Urban Nairobi, Kenya, Africa

Sub-saharan Africa is set to be by far the fastest growing region, with population rocketing from 1 billion today to between 3.5 billion and 5 billion in 2100. Previously, the fall in fertility rates that began in the 1980s in many African countries was expected to continue but the most recent data shows this has not happened. In countries like Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, the decline has stalled completely with the average woman bearing six children. Nigeria’s population is expected to soar from just under 200 million today to 900 million by 2100.

The cause of the stalled fertility rate is two-fold: a failure to meet the need for contraception and a continued preference for large families. “The unmet need for contraception – at 25% of women – has not changed in for 20 years.”

Wolfgang Lutz, director of the Vienna Institute of Demography, highlighted education as crucial in not only reducing birth rates but also enabling people to prosper even while populations are growing fast. In Ghana, for example, women without education have an average of 5.7 children, while women with secondary education have 3.2 and women with tertiary education only 1.5. But he said: “It is not primarily the number of people that’s important in population policy, it’s what they are capable of, their level of education, and their health.”

Meanwhile in Europe and North America  the fertility rate is falling while population growth is lagging significantly behind less developed countries.  Russia is currently at virtually zero and population is actually falling.  Additionally, populations are aging, particular in Japan, creating the burden of supporting the elderly with a dwindling workforce.

A child scavenging for food in Angola

Will we be able to feed 10 billion people?  This year, for the first time in history, over 1 billion people go to bed hungry every day. High food prices and the recent global economic recession pushed 100 million more people tinto chronic hunger and poverty. And, looking ahead, we know that climate change, rising energy prices, and growing water scarcity will make it harder, not easier, to grow the crops necessary to feed an expanding population.  Mounting soil erosion and the loss of farm land will also add to the challenge of boosting food production.

And it’s not just food that’s potentially in short supply.  Water scarcity is a growing concern. In many parts of the world today, major rivers at various times of the year no longer reach the ocean.  In some areas, lakes are going dry and underground water aquifers are being rapidly depleted.  And climate change, of course, will make the water situation even more critical.

.As food, water, and other resources are strained by the escalating demands of a growing world population, the number of environmental refugees in the world will rise…and so will the potential for conflict and civil war.

This century may turn out to be the hundred years migration and mark the return of genocidal starvation,  the failure of states, religious warfare and climate change resulting in the frantic stockpiling of food.  Those nation states with insufficient stockpiles will face mass starvation.

Remember Lebensraum?

Lebenstraum, Hitler maintained was necessary for the German people to be able to feed themselves from their own land.  He vehemently denied that science and land management would be sufficient to increase crops and keep up with a growing German population.  These were “Jewish” ideas.  Germany needed land in the east.

And that land needed to be de-populated through starvation and settled with German farmers.

In the coming century population growth and climate change threatens to provoke a new ecological panic. So far, poor people in Africa and the Middle East have borne the brunt of the suffering.

China for example, like Germany before the war, is an industrial power incapable of feeding its population from its own territory and is thus dependent on unpredictable international markets.  It was not that long ago (in my lifetime) that Chinese died from starvation by the millions.

China is already leasing a tenth of Ukraine’s arable soil, and buying up food whenever global supplies tighten.  The Chinese leadership already regards Africa as a long-term source of food. Although many Africans themselves still go hungry, their continent holds about half of the world’s untilled arable land.  Like China, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea are interested in Sudan’s fertile regions — and they have been joined by Japan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in efforts to buy or lease land throughout Africa.

We live on a planet with finite resources.  It cannot support both infinite population growth and ecological pollution and destruction.

None of our pols speaks of population growth and its affect on sustainability save our criticism of China’s  now revoked  “one child” policy.   Our religious folk rail against the availability of contraception.  Our illustrious President recently rejected the Paris Agreement and embraces climate change deniers.

Ask yourself what would our right wing, anti-science, anti-immigrant supporters do to protect our “way of life”.  Our “lifestyle”.  Would they support shooting starving Mexicans migrating north in mass at the border?  Taking Canada’s resources to support our consumer society?  Would they be willing to live more simply?  Smaller houses. Public transportation, Less heat in winter.  Less air conditioning.  Fewer choices.  Would they be willing to give up anything?

Or would they follow Dr. Goebbels, supporting the extermination of others (so long as they didn’t have to see it)  if it meant continuing a “big breakfast, a big  lunch, a big dinner?”

While people are hungry we feed corn to our cattle to sate our desire for meat.  And we use more water to irrigate our lawns and golf courses than to irrigate all the corn in America.

Malthus will be right – eventually.



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Knowing Her Place

The armies face each other
black and white
across a battlefield of squares
dark and light

opening hostilities
the King’s foot soldiers
charge forward,
boots on the center ground

strategic advantage;
How will the enemy respond?
Emulate the Spanish
or will it be Sicilian Dragons?

Or perhaps with gambits
bringing the unforeseen;
consequences of a war
of choice.

Knights sally forth
while Bishops bless soldiers
already sacrificed
for love of a King

who commands,
but rarely fights
sitting well protected
in his castle

while his Queen,
consummate warrior
master of the art
takes to the battlefield

defending him,
standing by him, sacrificing for him;
so much more worthy
yet knowing her place




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Inhumanity in Massachusetts

A trial is taking place in Massachusetts of a young woman named Michelle Carter, charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of boyfriend Conrad Roy III.

Roy committed suicide in the summer of 2014 at the age of 18 by using carbon monoxide from a truck’s exhaust system to poison himself.  In the lead up to Conrad’s death, Carter repeatedly urged him to kill himself. In Carter’s trial that began Tuesday, evidence of the teens’ text message exchanges showed Carter’s continuous attempts to convince her boyfriend to commit suicide.

In Tuesday’s opening statements, prosecutors argued that Carter wanted to be the “grieving girlfriend,” so as to gain popularity among the in-crowd at school.   “She used Conrad as a pawn in her sick game of life and death” and was actually on the phone with him as he died in a big box parking lot.

“Conrad got out of his truck as he was being poisoned and he got scared,” said the Prosecution.   “The defendant [expletive] told him to get back in.”

“She never admitted to anyone in the Roy family that she had helped Conrad for weeks to devise a suicide plan or that she was on the phone with Conrad and knew he committed suicide in the Kmart parking lot.”

Nice girl.   But is she guilty of manslaughter?  If not, then what if anything is she guilty of besides her tearless inhumanity to a troubled young man?

Transcripts of her phone messages (which numbered in the thousands to Conrad reveal a constant pressure from her to get him to kill himself:

Carter: I think your parents know you’re in a really bad place. I’m not saying they want you to do it but I honestly feel like they can accept it. They know there is nothing they can do. They’ve tried helping. Everyone’s tried, but there is a point that comes where there isn’t anything anyone can do to save you, not even yourself. And you’ve hit that point and I think your parents know you’ve hit that point. You said your mom saw a suicide thing on your computer and she didn’t say anything. I think everyone knows it’s on your mind and she’s prepared for it. Everyone will be sad for a while but they will get over it and move on. They won’t be in depression. I won’t let that happen. They know how sad you are, and they know that you are doing this to be happy and I think they will understand and accept it. They will always carry you in their hearts.

Conrad: Aww. Thank you, Michelle.

Carter: They will move on for you because they know that’s what you would have wanted. They know you wouldn’t want them to be sad and depressed and be angry and guilty. They know you want them to live their lives and be happy. So they will for you. You’re right. You need to stop thinking about this and just do it because over turning always kills, over thinking.

Conrad: Yeah, it does. I’ve been thinking about it for too long.

Carter: Always smile, and yeah, you have to just do it. You have everything you need. There is no way you can fail. Tonight is the night. It’s now or never.

Carter: [D]on’t be scared. You already made this decision and if you don’t do it tonight you’re gonna be thinking about it all the time and stuff all the rest of your life and be miserable. You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. No more bad thoughts and worries. You’ll be free. It’s okay to be scared and it’s normal. I mean, you’re about to die. I would be concerned if you weren’t scared, but I know how bad you want this and how bad you want to be happy. You have to face your fears for what you want.

In another exchange, Carter told Conrad he shouldn’t be afraid of failing in his attempt to kill himself.

Carter: …If you don’t think about it, you won’t think about failing. You’ll just do it and then thinking you’ll succeed.

Conrad: Right. That’s what I’m talking about. I read so much about failed attempts gone wrong that it’s gotten me discouraged.

Carter: Yeah, exactly, so stop doing that. There is more success than there are failures.

Conrad: Are you kidding me?

Carter: You have to look at it that way and people only fail because they have the same mindset as you. Thinking they’ll fail.

Conrad: I really want to believe you.

Carter: Why don’t you.

In another text message, Carter said she was frustrated that Conrad hadn’t committed suicide yet.

Carter: Well… I guess [that I am frustrated], just because you always say you are gonna do it but you don’t, but last night I know you really wanted to do it and I’m not mad. Well, I mean kind of, I guess, just because you always say you’re gonna do it… but you don’t but last night I knew you really wanted to and I’m not mad.

Carter: You’re not joking about this or bullshitting me, right? … I just want to make sure you’re being serious. Like, I know you are, but I don’t know. You always say you’re gonna do it, but you never do. I just want to make sure tonight is the real thing.

In other text message conversations, Carter advised Conrad about obtaining a generator to use in this suicide. On the morning of his death, Carter messaged Conrad:

Carter: You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t.

Conrad:  I don’t get it either. I don’t know.

Carter: So I guess you aren’t gonna do it then. All that for nothing. I’m just confused. Like you were so ready and determined.

Conrad: I am gonna eventually. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for but I have everything lined up.

Carter: No you’re not, Conrad. Last night was it. You kept pushing it off and you say you’ll do it, but you never do. It’s always gonna be that way if you don’t take action. You’re just making it harder on yourself by pushing it off. You just have to do it. Do you want to do it now?

Conrad: Is it too late? I don’t know. It’s already light outside. I’m gonna go back too sleep. Love you. I’ll text you tomorrow.

Carter: No. It’s probably the best time now because everyone is sleeping. Just go somewhere in your truck and no one is really out there right now because it’s an awkward time. If you don’t do it now you’re never gonna do it, and you can say you’ll do it tomorrow, but you probably won’t.

Carter: Tonight? Love you

Conrad: Thank you.

Carter: For what? Are you awake?

Conrad: Yes.

Carter: Are you gonna do it today?

Conrad: Yes.

Carter: Like in the day time?

Conrad: Should I?

Carter: Yeah, it’s less suspicious. You won’t think about it as much and you’ll get it over with instead of wait until the night.


Conrad: Like, why am I so hesitant lately. Like two weeks ago I was willing to try everything and now I’m worse, really bad, and I’m LOL not following through. It’s eating me inside.

Carter: You’re so hesitant because you keeping over thinking it and keep pushing it off. You just need to do it, Conrad. YThe more you push it off, the more it will eat at you. You’re ready and prepared. All you have to do is turn the generator on and you will be free and happy. No more pushing it off. No more waiting.

Conrad: You’re right

Carter: If you want it as bad as you say you do it’s time to do it today

Conrad: Yup. No more waiting

Carter: Okay, I’m serious. Like you can’t even wait til tonight. You have to do it when you get back from your walk.


What can one say in the face of such coldness?  She was on the phone with him as he died.  When he got scared and got out of the truck she insisted he get back in.  Then she walked around school like a grieving girlfriend.

Then Michelle Carter went off to the prom and a vacation at Disney World.

Samantha Boardman was among several of Carter’s friends and acquaintances who took the witness stand on Wednesday, the second day of the involuntary manslaughter trial in Taunton juvenile court.  She testified that Carter texted her that she was on the phone when Roy way dying, told him to get into the truck when he had stepped out and was now worried because the police had Roy’s phone with all of her messages pressuring him to suicide.

Her attorney argues that this was a suicide, plain and simple and that Roy was a deeply troubled young man.  And besides, there is no law in Massachusetts prohibiting assisted suicide. And where is the line for free speech. She didn’t supply him with the generator he used to kill himself (though she gave him the necessary information), she wasn’t there when he killed himself (though she was on the phone and told him to get back in the truck when he stepped out) and she has no obligation under the law to call 911.

Her actions constitute a singular crime against humanity.





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Tales of a Polish Woman

Christine Granville, nee Krystyna Skarbek, O.B.E., GM, Croix de Guerre, died tragically on June 15, 1952. She was a Special Operations Executive Agent during the war, celebrated for her daring and resourcefulness in intelligence and irregular warfare in Nazi occupied Poland and France. She was one of the longest serving of Britain’s wartime agents and was decorated by the King after the war.  In 1941 she began using the nom de guerre Christine Granville and adopted it with her naturalization as a British citizen in February 1947. She was 37 years old when she died.

Krystyna Skarbek, “Vesper” to her father, was born in 1908. the second child of Count Jerzy Skarbek and Stephania Goldfeder, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish banker. The Skarbeks had influenced Polish history for a thousand years, saving the country from medieval invaders and serving its royal courts’ “Krystyna inherited the self‐assuredness, patriotism and fearlessness of her ancestors. She also displayed her father’s vivacity and drive.”

Well educated, fluent in English and French, she was an avid skier and horseback rider. It was at the stables, in fact, where she first me Andrzej (Andrew) Kowerski while their respective fathers discussed horses and agriculture.  Neither she nor Andrew had any idea how their lives would eventually intertwine. Though they would continue to cross paths, there was no love between them then.

Instead, Christine married a Polish diplomat and was stationed at the embassy in Fascist-ruled Ethiopia, when Germany invaded Poland.  Rather than return to their homeland, now occupied by the Nazis, she and her husband sailed for London from South Africa — where she immediately offered her services to British intelligence. With the marriage already on the rocks, Christine and her husband eventually separated;  he emigrated to Canada and later to Mexico.

Christine then discovered that Kowerski was also in working for British Intelligence, under the name Andrew Kennedy.

They began working together, carrying out missions in Hungary and Poland, narrowly escaping capture by the Gestapo. On one occasion,  when she was stopped and questioned by Gestapo agents, Christine bit her tongue until it bled and feigned symptoms of tuberculosis.  The Gestapo got tired of her coughing blood and spittle in their direction and told her and Kowerski to go.  On a mission in Hungary, she swore to a German patrol that she was a relative of the Hungarian dictator Admiral Horthy.

While transporting a large sum of cash which she couldn’t explain, she calmly offered the money to the two security police who stopped her, bargaining for her freedom with the statement you can arrest me and your bosses will only keep the money…they took the money.  Christine and Andrew escaped through Turkey and Syria in Kowerski’s beat up Opal , making their way to British-held Cairo.

They hadn’t expected a heroes’ welcome, but they were mystified by the icy reception they received. There was a simple reason for it: the Polish government‐in‐exile in London had just ordered all ties with “amateur” resistance networks to be cut, claiming they had been penetrated by German intelligence.

This meant that the British could not send either Christine or Andrew back to Eastern Europe.  Christine handed over microfilms she’d brought from Hungary as evidence of the importance of her sources, which clearly showed the build up of German forces in advance of the imminent invasion of Russia, but they too were ignored. Having put their lives on the line for their country, they were now suspected of being Gestapo spies.

And so they sat in Cairo intil 1944.

With the landings at Normandy, there was a serious need for agents in the south of France.  Christine, being fluent in French, was a natural. Now using the name Pauline Armand, she was returned to service, parachuted into France and joined the network run by a British-Belgian agent named Francis Cammaerts.

Kowerski was left behind in England while Christine assisted in linking together French and anti-fascist Italian guerillas, striking German forces in the Alps, her skiing expertise put to good use. She also contacted Polish soldiers conscripted into the German army, encouraging them to desert and join the Resistance.  She was a courier and radio operator par excellence.

Then, disaster.

At Digne, France, just days before the British landings nearby,  Cammaerts and two of his agents were arrested by the Gestapo. Christine knew the landings were coming and also knew that the three would be executed as soon as the British hit the beaches.  They would certainly be tortured to reveal what they knew; if they exposed her she, too, would arrested and executed.

Christine came up with the boldest of plans.

She walked into the office of Captain Albert Schenck, the German officer who was holding the three agents and demanded to see him in perfect English and French.  Schenck was the liason between the Gestapo and the local police.

“Who are you and what do you want?” asked the orderly.

“I am the niece of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and I want to see Captain Schenck. Now!”

Christine was quickly ushered into the Captain’s office.  He sat there with a stunned expression.

“Who are you?”

“I told your orderly who I am. I am General Montgomery’s niece. You know he has just landed on the coast and will be here within a day or two. I know you are holding three British agents and I am here to warn you of the consequences if any harm befalls them!”

Captain Schenck was incredulous. “How do you know that?”

“Because I too am a British agent…I have been brought here just for this mission.  How do you think I know?”

Christine brazenly continued to threaten Schenck with terrible retribution if harm came to the prisoners.  She then reinforced the threat with a mercenary appeal—an offer of two million francs for the men’s release.

Schenck did not have the authority to release the prisoners so he brought the local Gestapo agent in charge, Max Waem, into the room.

For three hours Christine argued and bargained with them and,  turning on the full force of her personality, told them that the Allies would be arriving at any moment and that she was in constant wireless contact with the British forces. To make her point, she produced some wireless crystals; useless, but they couldn’t know that for sure. All the while, Waem was holding his revolver with the butt flat on the table, pointed at Christine.

“If I were in your shoes I would give serious consideration to my proposal. My uncle will not take kindly to my husband, Francis Cammearts, being hurt in any way.”   She added the twist identifying Cammearts as her husband, and therefore a relative of General Montgomery.   ”Uncle Monty will probably execute you if you are lucky – or perhaps turn you over to the townspeople!”

Both Schenck and Waem knew the war was lost.  Increasingly alarmed by the thought of what might befall them when the Allies and the Resistance decided to avenge the many murders they had committed, Waem tapped the butt end of his revolver on the table and said, ‘If we do get them out of prison, what will you do to protect us?

“I’ll be back tomorrow with the money. Have our agents ready to go!”

That night, British intelligence parachuted two million francs to Christine, who returned to Gestapo headquarters the following day.  Cammaerts and his comrades were lead from their cells, certain they were going to be executed. They found Christine waiting in a car instead.

After Cammaerts and the other two men were released, Captain Schenck and Waem were advised to leave town. Waem did;  Schenck did not and was subsequently murdered by a person or persons unknown. His wife kept his share of the bribe money and, after the war, attempted to exchange it for new francs. She was arrested, but was released after the authorities investigated her story. She was able to exchange the money for only a tiny portion of its value.

Christine and Andrew Kowerski

After the war Christine was awarded the George Medal, the highest award for civilian bravery.  She was also made an officer in the Order of the British Empire and decorated by the French government. With the war over, she was thanked profusely, given one month’s pay and discharged from service while in Cairo.

Christine was lost.  Her war life was over.  She could not go home to a communist Poland, so she made her way back to England and took a job as a salesgirl in Harrod’s.

And she could not find Andrew in London.

She met Ian Fleming and is purported to have carried on a year long affair with him, although there is no proof of their romantic attachment. It is said that the first of Ian Fleming’s Bond girls, Vesper Lynd (in Casino Royale),  is based on Christine.

Eventually Christine  took a job as a hostess on an ocean liner sailing regularly to South Africa.  There she met a porter, Dennis Muldowney, aboard ship. Dennis fell in love with her. She told him she wasn’t interested; she had found Andrew Kowerski, living and working in Germany. Andrew had asked her to come meet with him in Belgium..

She was going to rejoin the boy from the stables.  She knew, now, where she belonged.

The porter Dennis Muldowney followed Christine when she quit her job on the ship and moved to London. As she prepared to fly to Belgium and perhaps begin her new life, her old acquaintance began to stalk her.

The night before Christine was to leave to join Andrew, Muldowney decided that if he couldn’t possess her, no one would. He plunged a knife into Christine’s heart as she walked down the hotel stairs, killing her instantly.  The fearless girl who had faced and taken on the most dangerous and deadliest of enemies was tragically lost to a murderer she hadn’t recognized as the terrible threat he would become.

Some 200 former agents, including Andrew and Cammaerts, were at her funeral. Andrew Kowerski never married. When he died in 1988, he left instructions that his ashes be interred in Christine Granville’s grave.





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