“Double Life, Double Murder”: ABC 2020 episode looks at a possible wrongful conviction associated with homophobia

Cedar Springs area, Dallas 2022-5

On Friday, May 20, 2022, ABC 2020 presented a two hour mystery “Double Life Double Murder”. The viewing link (may require cable subscription) is this, and ABC main article is this. ABC affiliate WFAA has a detailed article. I actually watched it in a motel in Amarillo TX ( 8 PM Central) on a road trip.

Helium atom, Amarillo TX, NW of downtown off US 66, business 40

This is the case of a middle-aged couple, Dennis and Norma Woodruff, shot and stabbed late on a Sunday evening Oct. 16, 2005.  The couple had been downsizing by moving from a home in Heath, near Lake Ray Hubbard in the eastern suburbs of Dallas (which tend to be more conservative than the rest of the area – I lived in Dallas 1979-1988) to Royse City, farther into Collin and Hunt counties along I-30. 

Their 18 year old son Brandon apparently had dinner in their new place with them early Sunday evening and then says he was in a gay bar before returning to college at Abilene Christina University.  Other friends tried to call them and they did not answer. Their bodies were found on Tuesday.

There seems to be very little physical evidence.  Some time later a knife would be found with Dennis’s blood on it, maybe from a previous cut.

Nevertheless Brandon would become the main person of interest and then suspect, mainly from circumstantial evidence, although there seems to be serious questions whether the proposed timeline could have happened.

There is a paperback book by Phillip Crawford, “Railroaded: The Homophobic Prosecution of Brandon Woodruff for His Parents’ Murders”, Amazon Create Space, 2018, 161 pages, Site stripe link.

The Dallas Voice, article by David Taffett, reviews the episode with details of the case here. The Innocence Project is looking into this. Brandon’s grandmother supports his claims of innocence and has funded appeal attempts. The 2020 episode features a detailed interview of a near middle aged Brandon by ABC journalist John Quionenes where Brandon insists he did nothing. The episode included interviews with a female juror who insisted there was no homophobia in the deliberations although several jurors tended to see homosexuality per se as a (religious) sin.

I was just on a brief trip to Dallas and then several surrounding places (actually three other states). The Cedar Springs area close to downtown has rainbow paint on the main intersection (at Throckmorton St) and has some of the largest gay bars in the nation (Station4 disco [previously the Village Station] and Roundup, the latter a country-western place that is busy even on weeknights). Reasonably secure lot parking is available for $5 weekend nights. I did not have time to visit Royse City but it appears from Google Maps to be an upscale bedroom community like many in north Texas. Here is a Wikipedia picture of main street. Here is a picture of the Jacob’s Dream statue at Abilene Christian University.

The Crossroads plaque at Cedar Springs and Throckmorton 2022-5

I also did not have time to revisit Ranger, TX on I-20 (where the highway “climbs” on top of the Palo Pinto “Mountains”) which had serious fire damage last March (local Fox video). I did see grass fire damage on NM 406 (near the Oklahoma Panhandle Black Mesa) but there was no place to stop and film it. More details about the trip will be forthcoming.

(Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at 8 PM EDT)

“Cold Civil War” by Jim Belcher (book review)

From pro-abortion protesters after SCOTUS leak, 2022-5-16, pretty graphic language on some posters, particularly about the prospect of another Trump presidency term

Review of book “The Cold Civil War: Overcoming Polarization, Discovering Unity and Healing the Nation”. (Amazon Sitestripes link).

Author: Jim Belcher, formerly president of Providence Christian College in Pasadena CA and founding lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach CA. Ph.D from Georgetown University.

Foreword by John D. Wilsey.

Details: 2022, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 340 pages hardcover, 274 of main text, with three parts, thirteen chapters, and a conclusion.  Endnotes.

Interview of author Belcher

The author tackles the “cold civil war” between animus-bearing portions of US society, and certainly would agree that democracy as we know it is in danger.  His conclusion (spoiler) is that religion, both as an interfaith effort and in his purview a Christian priority, needs to stand with the political order in bringing about reforms.  However, he does not go into the legal details of the reforms (such as how to shore up election integrity and the loopholes and imbalances in our democracy, which seem to favor rural and smaller places).

Interview of author Belcher

He presents the core of his argument pictorially on p. 37 with a kind of Nolan chart (remember “the world’s smallest political quiz”).  It is bounded by a square with Left and Right, and with Order and Freedom as the other two edges. There are three concentric circles that pass through each quadrant.  3 is the most extreme, 2 is closer to the ruling establishment, and 1 is presented at the end as his proposed center, which will comprise four souls: Freedom Left becomes the constitutional soul, Order Left becomes the republican soul, Freedom Right becomes the middle class soul, and Order Right becomes the statesman soul.

Again, very graphic language on posters about women’s body integrity

 Chapter 12 is “Patriotic Citizenship” and Chapter 13 is called “Christianity: The Second Constitution”.  He argues that Christianity provides a “soft” but stable, appropriately flexible (and non-denominational but essentially western derivation from what Christianity added to Judaism in his view) set of moral principles to evolve constitutional principles as technology overwrites older ways of doing things.  That claim in interesting to me personally because Chapter 6 of my first DADT book had proposed specific constitutional amendments to add to the Bill of Rights, as a Bill of Rights 2.  Admittedly, since this dates to about 1997 (when my own mainframe I.T. career was in its full maturity according to the world then) some of the proposals are outrun by history.  And that’s the problem with my trying to make such specific prescriptions and why some sort of systemic approach is needed.  (Ironically I talked about the first amendment and about bodily privacy a lot, and even the beginnings of “freedom of reach”, but not about the second amendment).

Belcher is most graphic in describing extremism on all sides.  He winds up forcing to conclude that the far Left, with the doctrine of anti-racism interpreted as required indoctrination (and now it seems that “critical gender theory” has sometimes joined the indoctrination when SEL is implemented in some school systems), becomes as authoritarian as the far Right.  They have both evolved into anti-individualism and hyper tribalism.   In fact, I think we need a book, or at least an essay, on “individualism v. tribalism”.  Probably Dave Rubin would be a good starting point for that effort (book “Don’t Burn this Book” Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason”, 2020, Sentinel, Amazon stripes link).  Belcher points out that the extreme Order Right is willing to use violent or illegal means to get what it wants (January 6, and all the “stop the steal” business) but doesn’t get into the specific weaknesses (like the Electoral Count Act of 1887 which definitely needs revision).  The far Left, however, is at least willing to disrupt individuals and small businesses with violence and vandalism in demands for tribute (well, Marxist revolution).

The moral common denominator seems to be how individuals see themselves, how they balance their own utility with greater common good.  As one of the videos below shows, this comes up with some social issues in rather obvious ways:  abortion, vaccination, and end-of-life (as in the Catholic video below), but in some other ways to.  Think about the loss of freedom and implicit sacrifice in the coronavirus lockdowns, and in conscription (just of men?).  Public health particularly pits individual autonomy against the good of the larger community as a whole (and this could have been said about the AIDS crisis in the 80s, which was very different from COVID). 

Authoritarian systems limit the individual by requiring “em” to personally identify with tribal priorities. Marxist systems pretend that everyone should start out equal and that belonging to a victimized class is a legitimate source of personal identity. Far right (“alt-right”) authoritarianism assumes that a ruling class comprises inherently “superior” people entitled to rule, and follows survival of the fittest (except inside the nuclear or extended family or inner tribe). However often a far-right “order” mentality appeals to the notion that its tribe had one time been abused.  This is certainly true in the Old Testament with the Israelites.

My Body My Choice, Very Flawed Logic

(Posted Monday, May 16, 2022 at 1 PM EDT by John W Boushka)

Piketty’s “A Brief History of Equality” (Review)

Harvard Yard 2015-8

Review of Thomas Piketty’s “A Brief History of Equality” (Amazon Sitestripe link).

Specifics: Translated from French by Steven Randall. Piketty is professor at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS and the Paris School of Economics, and Conductor of the World Inequality Lab.

Publisher:  2022, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London; ISBN 978-0-674-27355-9; Introduction and ten chapters; Contents; Lists; Index; footnotes are on pages; main text runs through page 44; entire book (hardcover) is 274 pages. Harvard owns the copyright.

Piketty is already known for authoring “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” (2014) (my legacy review).  This book purports to be more modest.

For someone crusading to make the world a fairer place, the narratives are quite abstract, emphasizing France and other European powers more than the US.  The book maintains that the world has gradually become a more equitable place since the late 18th century, more or less about the time of the American and French revolutions, after which a “patrimonial” middle class became visible, Early, struggles concerned specifically colonialism and slavery, and then soon the exploitation of manual labor as the industrial revolutions came on.  But it was not always a straight line.  (Look at the 3/5 rule in the US).

He spends some space on reparations – but at first reimbursement of slaveowners when their “property” was freed.  Now in the most extreme corners of the left, the talk is about paying some descendants of slavery from institutions and possibly some overly privileged white individuals.  Reimbursement of slaveholders would seem to go in the opposite direction.

Piketty talks a lot about the whole idea of using property as a way to at least indirectly exercise power over other people, less favored, with rentiership.

Piketty migrates toward a discussion of inheritance and proposes “inheritance for all” as a component perhaps of universal basic income.

I can remember back in December 1972 siting in a drafty rowhouse in Newark NJ spying on Spock’s “People’s Parry of New Jersey” where angry activists wanted to limit income to everyone to $50000 a year, and to abolish all inherited wealth, as unearned by labor.  Equality was to be achieved by limiting the opportunities of or expropriating the property or money of the individually over-privileged.  It is time to raid and murder the czars and their families again. I was covertly an enemy, a privileged computer person then making $14K a year.

Piketty, however, speaks of dispersed or decentralized and localized participatory democratic socialism. Yes, he wants confiscatory income and wealth taxes and gleefully summarizes the time from FDR up to the start of Reagan when for a time the highest marginal income tax rate had been 91%.  It’s true, society seemed more stable except, well, for civil rights and segregation and exclusion of certain peoples from some places. 

On p. 217 Piketty writes “The idea that each country (or worse yet, each person in each country) is individually responsible for its production and its wealth from a historical point of view.” That indeed contradicts a statement in the Introduction of my own DADT-1 book, “My central question on personal values is this: do we believe in the principle that every adult person is totally responsible for himself or herself? This objectivistic notion would limit the responsibilities of government to consequentialism. Individuals, through their own conduct and performance, would become their own moral agents. An individual will, in principle, be held accountable for her actions regardless of biological or circumstantial parentage. When may an individual rightfully set her own personal priorities, and when should she consider the recognized and established interests of family and larger community first?”  Indeed, the answer to that postulate about personal agency had carried through to David Callahan’s 2004 critique of hyperindividualism and extreme capitalism, “The Cheating Culture”.

I do think that inequity, when it gets bad enough in volume, leads to social instability, especially when there is a sudden external hardship (as we saw in 2020 — but the cracks were starting to show as Trump got elected in 2016). The far Left attributes it to group causes (as does Piketty) but especially systemic racism (CRT), which in some sense absolves individuals unless they are somehow collared into Marxist-style indoctrination (as in some schools, apparently, if you follow “libsofTikTok” etc on Twitter; this sort of thinking gets blown up by social media algorithms). But I can see the idea of individually tailored reforms, like expected behaviors when individual adults do receive inheritances. If one inherits a house to live in, they (“e’) might reasonably be expected to keep it ready to receive refugees, for example. Imagine that.

In the last two chapters Piketty discusses moving away from “neocolonialism” (a euphemism indeed) to his vaguely constructed democratic socialism (maybe only after war or destructive revolution) and in the last chapter takes a comparative look at China, which he considers partially successful, having also partially returned the right of citizens to some private property (in 2004).  I don’t think the lockdowns some individual Chinese are living through now (for a future common good and safety) seems very tolerable.  Piketty also notes well the difficulties western countries, and their citizens will have with climate change, having created more than their fair share of the warming before developing countries had a chance (China is questionable).

(Posted: Sunday, May 8, 2022, at 4 PM by John W. Boushka)