Archive for January, 2007

Children Made to Order

Posted in Law on January 27, 2007 by castagnera

Maybe I’m old-fashioned or just plain selfish. If the Good Lord hadn’t blessed us with two terrific kids, I doubt that I ever would have wanted to adopt any. That’s me. By contrast, a long-time acquaintance, having raised two children and survived a subsequent divorce, went on to marry an ex-nun. By the time they got together, the biological clock had stopped ticking. So, at the age where I’m bracing for the possibility of grandfather-hood, they recently adopted a ten-year-old Columbian kid. Continue reading


Mother Nature Is Snapping Back

Posted in Politics on January 20, 2007 by castagnera

The headline caught my eye: “Hippo eats dwarf.”
The news item out of Bangkok reads, “A hippopotamus swallowed a circus dwarf in a ‘freak accident’ in northern Thailand.” Od, the dwarf, bounced sideways from his trampoline and was gulped down by a hippo which, as luck had it, was “yawning” while waiting to appear in the next act. Continue reading

2007 will be the silly season of presidential politics

Posted in Politics on January 17, 2007 by castagnera

2007 could potentially be a political black hole.  The 2006 mid-term elections are behind us.  The 2008 presidential election is almost two years away.

          Political junkies, fear not!  A trio of presidential wanna-be’s will keep us well entertained. Continue reading

Ned McAdoo and the Molly Maguires

Posted in Law on January 17, 2007 by castagnera

Ned McAdoo and the Molly MaguiresByClaire and Jim Castagnera

© K&C Human Resource Enterprises 2006


The man was tall… six feet, at least… maybe seven.  Or was he floating a foot or two above our hunter green carpet?  Most of his face was hidden by a shaggy black beard and handlebar mustache.  But his… oh, Christ almighty, those eyes.  They were two glowing coals, each one orange, shimmering and radiating from a deep black socket, almost like the craters of two recently-active volcanoes.  Or — it occurred to me later — two glowing embers of anthracite coal in some 19th century fireplace.  And the mouth.  It was open about half way and what I could see of the inside was bright and bloody red.       The body, which walked or floated slowly toward the foot of the bed, was dressed in a black, funereal suit of rough wool.  The sleeves of the coat were too short and the long, powerful-looking arms hung down at the man’s side, the ghostly white fingers fully extended but relaxed.  Except for the eyes and mouth, the face, which had an exceptionally high forehead crowned by a thinning crop of ill-cut black hair, was so white that I could have believed it had been dusted with flour.                                                                                           The specter did not so much speak as moan its message, which sounded to me like “Juice dish.”  The words meant nothing, yet the voice frightened me even more than the messenger’s appearance.  I tried to kick off the covers, intending to leap out of the bed and run for it.  In my panic, as I was a little ashamed to recall later, I gave no thought to Judy, asleep beside me in our queen-sized bed.     I found that, despite kicking and flailing my arms and legs like the panic-stricken coward I was, I couldn’t get the bed clothes off my body nor extricate myself from the bed.  The apparition was hovering directly above me, still moaning “Juice dish, Juice dish,” while I too moaned and wailed like some Irish banshee in a fairy tale, when I heard a third voice in my right ear.  It was a soft and gentle female voice amidst all the male caterwauling that seemed to fill up the small dark space of the bedroom.  At first I hardly heard it.  But, accompanied by a gentle yet firm shaking of my trembling right shoulder, it persisted until it got through to the agitated recesses of my frantic brain.     “Ned,” the gentle voice said.  “Ned, darling.  Wake up.  It’s all right.  You’re having a dream.  Ned, wake up,” it insisted.       I discovered that I could sit upright.  And so, I did.  I sat bolt upright in bed and the blanket and sheet fell down into my lap.     The rescuing female voice, I was happy to hear, was still there in my right ear, which seemed the only sane part of my head.      “Ned, wake up,” it persisted.  “You’re having a nightmare.”I turned and was somewhat startled to see my wife beside me, her soft, plump hand holding and gently shaking my shoulder.  “It’s all right, honey.  Just wake up now.  Okay?”      I turned and looked into the big, green-gray eyes that were just a few inches from my sweat-covered face.  The two big tears, one dangling precariously from the corner of each of those warm, reassuring eyes, looked to me like tiny crystal balls.  They caught the light coming in from the electric candle on the table in the hallway.  I felt relief flood over and down through me. My whole tense, stiffened body relaxed.  I’m surprised, thinking back, that I didn’t just collapse like a pile of cloth.     Then I remembered my ghastly visitor.  I snapped my head back toward the ceiling.  There was nothing there, except our ceiling fan, rotating slowly, creating shimmering shadows as its blades alternately reflected the soft, yellowish light from the hall.     “It was Kehoe,” I finally spoke to Judy.  “It was Black Jack.”     Her gentle voice did not contradict this mad assertion.  As if I had told her that Archie had just called, she asked in matter-of-fact tones, “What did he want, honey?”     “I’m not sure,” I replied, her calmness catching, my own tone of voice level and fairly soft. “I don’t know.  Something about juice, I think.”     “Juice?”  Judy was as puzzled as I.  Or was she amused and just pretending to be interested, as she did sometimes when I tried to tell her about some of my cases?  “What about juice, darling?”

     “Don’t know,” I mumbled, as an irresistible urge to get back to sleep came over me.  I checked the clock on my night stand: 2:02 AM was the digital reading.  “I don’t know.  Maybe he was thirsty.”

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The Abuse Excuse

Posted in Law on January 13, 2007 by castagnera

Perhaps it’s Clarence Darrow’s fault. The famous trial attorney, best known for the Scopes Monkey Trial immortalized in “Inherit the Wind,” also represented the thrill killers Leopold and Loeb. That 1924 trial inspired at least four feature films: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope” (1948), “Compulsion” with Orson Wells in the Darrow role (1959), the kinky “Swoon” (1992), and most recently “Murder by Numbers” (2002). Called the crime of the century at the time of the trial, the murder of teenaged Bobby Franks by two wealthy college boys in Chicago has fascinated us down the decades. Continue reading

When the Victim Has a Fan Club

Posted in Law on January 13, 2007 by castagnera

Two months ago the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of a defendant who was convicted of first-degree murder. What made the case of Mathew Musladin, who shot and killed his estranged wife’s boyfriend Tom Studer, interesting to the Supremes was the buttons. That’s right, the buttons.
For the 14 days of trial Studer’s family came to court and sat in the front row wearing buttons that bore the dead man’s picture. Continue reading

Life as a Game

Posted in Law on January 13, 2007 by castagnera

When I was a kid we played the game of “Life.” For many today life has been reduced to a game… a video game. Given the ever-growing sophistication of computer games, I’m not surprised they are mistaken for reality. The technology has come a long way since we slotted quarters into the “Space Invaders” console at the local pub.
Sometimes a game’s realism spills off the screen into real life. Sony’s launch of Play Station 3 induced kids, who would never consider camping in a national forest, to bunk down outside of stores. Some wound up robbed at gunpoint after getting their precious PS3s at something like $400 a pop. Other buyers were sprayed with pellets from drive-by BB gunners. One sucker was sent to the hospital, when he joined in a Wal-Mart version of musical chairs… 10 chairs plus 50 people is the formula for a riot. What didn’t Wal-Mart understand about that? Or has the sadism on the computer screen infected the retailers, too? Continue reading