Archive for November, 2013

Is Critical Thinking a Thing of the Past?

Within the range of two weeks, a missing person’s case, the disappearance of a high school student, and a bizarre occurrence at a local supermarket , illustrate why information still unknown is simply speculation.

Milwaukee police consider Kris Zocco an obvious person of interest in the disappearance of Kelly Dwyer, a metro Milwaukee woman who was last seen on October 11. Sources say investigators turned their attention to a large Menomonee Falls landfill after they learned that Zocco had his vehicle portered.  Yesterday, Milwaukee’s Fox News 6 reported that detectives have recovered possible evidence at the landfill.

In the Dwyer matter it is fair to say that investigators fear the worst, as was the case earlier this week when 15-year-old Kathryn Stalbaum supposedly left for Kettle Moraine High School on a bicycle but never arrived.  A few days later, however, Stalbaum approached a police officer in Chicago and reported herself found. One can only speculate why the 15-year-old girl thought it a good reason to leave the state without notice, although, if passed experience bears any precedent, it might be due to someone she met online.

Of course, speculation is just that, speculation, which is why it is important to let investigators sort through the facts — one way or another — before jumping to conclusions.

Yesterday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that a woman, shopping at an Aldi grocery store in Wauwautosa, discovered a Black Widow spider in a package of grapes. The story sparked an interesting debate on the first-page of the comments section of the fish wrapper (also known as the newspaper, for readers not familiar with Milwaukee PD vernacular).!page=1&pageSize=10&sort=newestfirst

One reader suggested that the woman’s story didn’t pass his “BS detector.”  He was immediately challenged by another commentator and Karen Herzog, of the newspaper’s staff. Suggesting that something might not be reality until more follow-up is conducted is, in this instance, prudent.  However, simply assuming that information is factual is naive.

These comments made about the Black Widow spider, I think, speak to a much broader issue: a large segment of the American populace lacks critical thinking skills.  They would rather be willing dupes, especially if the disinformation conforms to their world view, than dig below the surface and expose unpleasant realities.

Former Judge Andrew Napolitano frequently points out that it is a crime for a citizen to lie to a government agent but perfectly lawful for a government agent to lie to a citizen.  This is the ultimate ‘do as I say, not as I do’ hypocrisy.  Yet when the President of the United States lies to the American people, as long as he is lying in the name of their political philosophy, supporters try to explain away the deceptions.

President George H.W. Bush told us to read his lips and promised he would not offer new taxes, even though he later jacked them up.

President Clinton said, “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”  DNA on a blue dress proved him a liar.

President George W. Bush said the United State did not torture, even though water boarding, which he authorized, is torture.

President Obama lied to Jay Leno by denying that the United States does not have a surveillance program that targets its citizens.  His lies about health care are off the charts.

Quite frankly, the reason politicians and others speak mistruths is that they are fully aware that a large percentage of the population is willing to tolerate them, even if the lies are self evident. Other Americans are so simple minded that they would prefer to believe that everything the government says must be true.

Why the police chief, the President, or a judge would never lie, right?


God gave human beings a brain for a reason.  Before taking a statement at face value it is important to verify whether what was said is true. This is the primarily difference between a reporter and a detective.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His latest print edition only book, Best of the Spingola Files, Volumes I & II, is now available at

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© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2013