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Archive for the ‘Law Enforcement’ Category

“SCARFACE” REVISITED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 19, 2015 at 2:55 pm

It’s a scene familiar to anyone who’s seen Scarface, the 1983 classic starring Al Pacino as a Cuban drug dealer who makes it big in the cocaine business.

Tony Montana (Pacino) is holding curt in his Florida estate.  His visitor is a WASP-ish banker.

Bankers as a rule don’t make house calls. But Tony is no ordinary customer–his men literally haul bags full of bills into the bank when making deposits.

Except that now the banker has some unpleasant news for Tony:

We’re not a wholesale operation.  We’re a legitimate bank.  The more cash you give me……the harder it is for me to rinse.

“The fact is I can’t take any more of your money unless I raise the rates on you.”

TONY: You gonna raise…

BANKER: I gotta do it.

BANKER: The IRS is coming…

TONY:  Don’t give me that shit! Let’s talk.  I’m talking.  I go low, you go high.  I know the game.  This is business talk.

BANKER:  Let me explain something.  The IRS is coming down heavy on South Florida.  There was a Time magazine story that didn’t help. 

There’s a recession. I got stockholders I got to be responsible for.  I got to do it, Tony.

Tony Montana’s personal banker gives him some bad news

TONY: We’ll go somewhere else.  That’s it.   

BANKER:  There’s no place else to go.

TONY: Fuck you, man! Fuck you! I’ll fly the cash myself to the Bahamas.

BANKER: Once maybe. Then what?  You’ll trust some monkey in a Bahamian bank with millions of your hard-earned dollars? 

Come on, Tony. Don’t be a schmuck. Who else can you trust? That’s why you pay us what you do. You trust us.

Stay with us. You’re a well-liked customer. You’re in good hands with us.

(At this point, movie audiences burst into laughter.  The line, “You’re in good hands with us” seemed directly lifted from the slogan used by Allstate Insurance: “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”)

Now, fast forward to 2014.

A Reuters news story dated May 21, 2014 noted that investigators from the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were probing Charles Schwab and Bank of America Corporations Merrill Lynch brokerage.

The SEC wants to determine if these brokerages violated anti-money laundering rules that require financial institutions to know their customers.

Broker-dealers are required to establish, document and identify customers and verify their identities in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.

In 2012, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, ordered regulators to guarantee that financial institutions are identifying the true beneficial owners of their accounts.

The reason: Drug cartels and terrorist groups have become highly creative in hiding and transferring their illegal funds.

According to sources close to the investigation, Charles Schwab and Merrill accepted shell companies and persons with phony addresses as clients.

In both cases, some of the accounts were eventually linked to drug cartels.  Some of those accounts held hundreds of thousands of dollars; others held millions.

A Texas rancher and Charles Schwab client transferred money to a holding company that was actually a shell company.

Most of the Schwab clients being investigated lived near the Mexican border. Some were linked to Mexican drug cartels.

Click here: Exclusive: SEC probes Schwab, Merrill, for anti-money laundering violations – sources | Reuters

No further stories could be found on the Internet to update the progress of these investigations.

In fact, the government should have assumed long ago that brokerage companies were engaging in such behavior.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Discourses, his landmark book on how to preserve freedom within a republic:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. 

But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Whenever the creating of wealth becomes an end in itself, all other ends are sacrificed to this.

Greed begins in the neurochemistry of the brain. A neurotransmitter called dopamine fuels our greed. The higher the dopamine levels in the brain, the greater the pleasure we experience.

Harvard researcher Hans Breiter has found, via magnetic resonance imaging studies, that the craving for money activates the same regions of the brain as the lust for sex, cocaine or any other pleasure-inducer.

Federal investigators need to view large concentrations of wealth as sources for at least potential corruption.

And they should ruthlessly–and routinely–investigate those sources, whether in the vaults of the Mafia or of major financial institutions.

WHY COPS–WHITE AND BLACK–FEAR BLACKS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 13, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Blacks make up 13% of the American population, according to the 2010 census of the United States.

But they committed 52% of homicides between 1980 and 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Only 45% of whites were offenders in such cases.

Blacks were disproportionately likely to commit homicide and to be the victims. In 2008 blacks were seven times more likely than whites to commit homicide.  And they were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims.

According to the FBI, blacks were responsible for 38% of murders, compared to 31.1% for whites, in 2013.

From  2011 to 2013, 38.5% of people arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were black.

Click here: FactCheck: do black Americans commit more crime?

In 1971, Robert Daley, a reporter for the New York Times, became a deputy police commissioner for the New York Police Department (NYPD).

In that capacity, he saw the NYPD from the highest levels to the lowest–from the ornate, awe-inspiring office of  Police Commissioner Patrick Murphy to the gritty, sometimes blood-soaked streets of New York.

He spent one year on the job before resigning–later admitting that when he agreed to take the job, he got more than he bargained for.

It proved to be a tumultuous year in the NY’D’s history:  Among those challenges Daley and his fellow NYPD members faced were the murders of several police officers, committed by members of the militant Black Liberation Army.

Two of those murdered officers were Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini.  Jones was black, Piagentini white; both were partners.  Both were shot in the back without a chance to defend themselves.

Writing about these murders in a bestselling 1973 book–Target Blue: An Inside’s View of the N.Y.P.D.–Daley noted:

  • Jones and Piagentini were the sixth and seventh policemen–of ten–murdered in 1971.
  • About 18 men were involved in these murders.  All were black.
  • The city’s politicians knew this–and so did Commissioner Murphy.  None dared say so publicly.

“But the fact remained,” wrote Daley, “that approximately 65% of the city’s arrested murderers, muggers, armed robbers, proved to be black men; about 15% were of Hispanic origin; and about 20% were white [my italics].

The overall racial breakdown of the city was approximately:

  • Whites, 63%;
  • Blacks, 20%;
  • Hispanics 17%.

Stated another way: Blacks, who made up 20% of the city’s population, were responsible for 65% of the city’s major crimes.

Or, as Daley himself put it: “So the dangerous precincts, any cop would tell you, were the black precincts.”

That was 42 years ago.

Now, consider the following statistics released by the NYPD for “Crime and Enforcement Activity in New York City” in 2012.  Its introduction states:

“This report presents statistics on race/ethnicity compiled from the New York City Police Department’s records management system.”

Then follows this chart:

Misdeanor Criminal Mischief
Victim, Suspect, Arrestee Race/Ethnicity                                                                  

American Indians:          Victims:    0.7%    Suspects:   0.3%   Arrestees:  0.3%

Asian/Pacific Islanders:  Victims:   8.4%     Suspects:  3.2%    Arrestees:  3.9%

Blacks:                         Victims: 36.5%  Suspects:  49.6%  Arrestees:  36.5%

Whites:                          Victims: 28.9%    Suspects:  17.0%    Arrestees:  22.9%

Hispanics:                      Victims:  25.4%   Suspects:  29.8%    Arrestees:  36.4%

Total  Victims:        40,985       

Total Suspects:     11,356  

Total Arrests:         7,825

Then come the guts of the report:

Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter Victims:

  • Black (60.1%)
  • Hispanic (26.7%)
  • White victims (8.7%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (4.2%)

Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter Arrestees:

  • Black (51.4%)
  • Hispanic (36.7%)
  • White (9.2%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islander (2.6%)

Rape Victims:

  • Black (37.9%)
  • Hispanic (36.9%)
  • White victims (19.2%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (5.4%)

Rape Arrestees:

  • Black (48.6%)
  • Hispanic (42.8%)
  • White (5.0%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islander (3.1%)

Other Felony Sex Crimes Victims:

  • Black (40.7%)
  • Hispanic (33.6%)
  • White victims (19.6%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (5.9%)

Known Other Felony Sex Crime Arrestees:

  • Black (42.3%)
  • Hispanic (39.8%)
  • White (12.6%)
  • Asian /Pacific Islander (5.1%)

Robbery Victims:

  • Hispanic (36.1%)
  • Black (31.9%)
  • White victims (18.3%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (12.8%)

Robbery Arrestees:

  • Black (62.1%)
  • Hispanic (29.0%)
  • White (6.2%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islander (2.5%)

Felonious Assault Victims:

  • Black (47.8%)
  • Hispanic (33.6%)
  • White (12.4%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (5.5%)

Felonious Assault Arrestees:

  • Black (52.3%)
  • Hispanic (33.6%)
  • White (9.4%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (4.5%)

Grand Larceny Victims:

  • White (42.4%)
  • Black (25.0%)
  • Hispanic (20.1%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (11.8%)

Grand Larceny Arrestees:

  • Black (52.0%) 
  • Hispanic (28.5%)
  • White (14.6%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (4.8%)

Shooting Victims:

  • Black (74.1%)
  • Hispanic (22.2%)
  • White (2.8%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (0.8%)

Shooting Arrestees:

  • Black (75.0%)
  • Hispanic (22.0%)
  • White (2.4%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islander (0.6%)

Drug Felony Arrest Population:

  • Black (45.3%)
  • Hispanic (40.0%)
  • White (12.7%)
  • Asian Pacific Islanders (1.9%)

The Drug Misdemeanor Arrest Population

  • Black (49.9%)
  • Hispanic (34.5%)
  • White (13.3%)
  • Asian Pacific Islanders (2.1%)

The Felony Stolen Property Arrest Population:

  • Black (52.5%)
  • Hispanic (28.9%)
  • White (14.5%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (4.0%)

The Misdemeanor Stolen Property Arrest Population:

  • Black (47.1%)
  • Hispanic (30.2%)
  • White (16.9%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (5.4%)

Violent Crime Suspects:

  • Black (66.0%)
  • Hispanic (26.1%)
  • White (5.8%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders (1.9%)

Reported Crime Complaint Juvenile Victims:

  • Black (43.5%)
  • Hispanic (38.7%)
  • White (11.6%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islander (5.8%)

Juvenile Crime Complaint Arrestees:

  • Black (58.6%)
  • Hispanic (32.6%)
  • White (5.8%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islander (2.8%)

Appendix B of the report offers a breakdown of New York City’s racial makeup:

                                                                Total Numbers        % the City’s Population  

  • White                                             2,722,904                          (33.3%)
  • Black                                             1,861,295                         (22.8%)
  • Hispanic                                          2,336,076                         (28.6%)
  • Asian/Pacific Islanders                  1,030,914                          (12.6%)

Thus, while Blacks make up 22.8% of New York City’s population, they comprise

  • 51.4% of its murder and non-negligent manslaughter arrests;
  • 48.6% of its rape arrests;
  • 42.3% of its known other felony sex crime arrests;
  • 62.1% of its robbery arrests;
  • 52.3% of its felonious assault arrests;
  • 52.0% of its grand larceny arrests;
  • 75.0% of its shooting arrests;
  • 45.3% of its drug felony arrests;
  • 49.9% of its drug misdemeanor arrests;
  • 52.5% of its felony stolen property arrests;
  • 47.1% of its misdemeanor stolen property arrests;
  • 66.0% of its violent crime suspects;
  • 58.6% of its juvenile crime complaint arrests.

Police, like most people, learn from their experiences.  And if the majority of their experiences with blacks continue to be with the perpetrators of crime, they will continue to associate blacks as a whole with criminals.

This is admittedly unfair to those blacks who are not involved in any way with crime.  But it will continue until crime rates among blacks start falling dramatically.

THE TRUTH-AND THE DIRT–WILL OUT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 12, 2015 at 12:02 am

On April 23, the family of teen thug Michael Brown filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown, 18, was shot by a Ferguson police officer on August 9.  Brown was unarmed, but the officer–Darren Wilson, who has since left the police department–claimed self-defense.  According to him, Brown tried to seize his weapon.

The lawsuit claims that

Brown, 18, was unarmed and walking in the street with a friend on Aug. 9 when Wilson told them to get on the sidewalk.

The lawsuit claims that Wilson said: “Get the [expletive] out of the street.”  Without the “unnecessary and unwarranted profane language,” the encounter would have been “uneventful.”

Attorneys for Brown’s parents promised the case would reveal new forensic evidence and raise doubts about the police version of events. Some of that evidence, they said, had been overlooked in previous investigations.

If it comes to trial, the lawsuit could force a full review of all the evidence in the shooting and bring key witnesses to be questioned in open court.

Civil cases generally require a lower standard of proof than criminal cases. Jurors must base their decision on a preponderance of evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard needed to convict in a criminal trial.

The reason for this is that, in a criminal trial, the freedom of the accused is at stake.  In a civil trial, only money is.

The lawsuit could prove embarrassing to the Ferguson Police Department, which has already been heavily criticized in a Justice Department investigation.

The report of those findings, released on March 4, stated:

“The Justice Department found that the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution….

“Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them….

Federal investigators found that the FPD had a pattern or practice of:

  • Conducting stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
  • Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment; and
  • Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Click here: Justice Department Announces Findings of Two Civil Rights Investigations in Ferguson, Missouri | OPA | Department

So there will be many opportunities for the Brown family to reveal highly damaging truths about the FPD.

But the trial promises to be highly embarrassing for the Brown family as well.

Consider the following:

Michael Brown (left) roughing up a store owner

Lesley Mcspadden

Louis Head calls for arson in Ferguson

No doubt the Ferguson police will be working overtime to turn up even more embarrassing truths–or at least charges–against the Brown family.

In the end, the outcome of the lawsuit may well turn on who can dig up more dirt on whom.

WHEN COPS ARE LAWBREAKERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 7, 2015 at 12:01 am

Freddie Gray’s tally of arrests came to at least 18.

But on April 12, he was arrested for what would be the final time.

That arrest would lead to Gray’s death and scandal for the Baltimore Police Department.

On May 2, the Baltimore Sun broke the story that, of the six policemen involved with Gray’s arrest, Brian Rice—the highest ranking officer—had seven guns confiscated by sheriff’s deputies in April, 2012.

He was also temporarily removed from duty–over concerns about his mental health.

Click here: Lieutenant Brian Rice charged in Freddie Gray death had weapons seized in 2012 – Baltimore Sun

But that was merely embarrassing.  What happened on May 1 was life-changing.

Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore’s chief deputy prosecutor at the State’s Attorney office, publicly released the findings of her agency in the Gray case:

  • “The knife was not a switchblade and is lawful under Maryland law.” [Police had claimed it wasa switchblade.]
  • ” Lt. Rice, Officer Miller and Officer Nero failed to establish probable cause for Mr. Gray’s arrest as no crime had been committed by Mr. Gray. Accordingly Lt. Rice Officer MIller and Office Nero illegally arrested Mr. Gray.”
  • ” Lt. Rice Officer Miller and Officer Nero loaded Mr. Gray into the wagon and at no point was he secured by a seatbelt while in the wagon contrary to a BPD [Baltimore Police Department] general order.”
  • “…Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon.”
  • “Despite stopping for the purpose of checking on Mr. Gray’s condition, at no point did [Officer Goodson] seek nor did he render any medical assistance for Mr. Gray.”
  • “Mr. Gray…requested help and indicated that he could not breathe. Officer Porter asked Mr. Gray if he needed a medic at which time Mr. Gray indicated at least twice that he was in need of a medic.”

Marilyn Mosby

  • “…Despite Mr. Gray’s appeal for a medic, both officers [William Porter, Caesar Goodson] assessed Mr. Gray’s condition and at no point did either of them….render or request medical assistance.”
  • “Sgt. [Alicia] White….spoke to the back of Mr. Gray’s head. When he did not respond, she did nothing further despite the fact that she was advised that he needed a medic. She made no effort to look or assess or determine his condition.”
  • “Despite Mr. Gray’s seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer.”
  • “By the time Officer Zachary Novak and Sgt. White attempted to remove Mr. Gray from the wagon, Mr. Gray was no longer breathing at all.”
  • “A medic was finally called to the scene where upon arrival, the medic determined Mr. Gray was now in cardiac arrest and was critically and severely injured.”
  • “Mr. Gray was rushed to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma where he underwent surgery. On April 19, 2015, Mr. Gray succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead.”
  • “The manner of death deemed homicide by the Maryland Medical Examiner is believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred while Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt in custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon.

After presenting her findings, Mosby then outlined the criminal charges her office was bringing against the officers involved:

  • Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., 45: Second-degree depraved murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of vehicular manslaughter charges and misconduct in office.
  • Officer William Porter, 25:Involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
  • Brian Rice, 41:Involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
  • Officer Edward Nero, 29: Two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
  • Officer Garrett Miller, 26: Two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one false imprisonment charge.
  • Alicia White, 30:Involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

* * * * *

This case has polarized Baltimore–and America.

On the Left–and especially among blacks–are those who believe Gray was an innocent victim of police oppression.

“Even if he was guilty of dealing and using narcotics,” they say, “the anti-drug laws are a stupid waste of police resources.”

On the Right are those who steadfastly defend all police actions, including the most brutal and lawless.

“Even if the cops were guilty of brutality and/or negligence,” they say, “so what?  A career criminal won’t ply his trade anymore.”

Both sides are wrong.

Until the anti-drug laws are repealed, they are legal and will continue to be enforced.  Freddie Gray knew this better than most.

But police who employ illegal methods to enforce the law risk losing not only the cases they want to bring but their own careers as well.

And those officers who cause death or injury by unjustified brutality and/or negligence must be held accountable.

That has long been considered the difference between the FBI and the KGB. 

There is a difference between supporting the legal actions of police—and living in a police state.

WHEN COPS ARE LAWBREAKERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 6, 2015 at 12:01 am

Leave out his name for a moment.  Then consider the following:

His biography includes at least 18 arrests:

  • July 16, 2007: Possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance (2 counts)
  • August 23, 2007: False statement to a peace officer, unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance
  • August 28, 2007: Possession of marijuana
  • August 29, 2007: Possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, violation of probation
  • February 11, 2008: Unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a controlled dangerous substance
  • March 14, 2008: Possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to manufacture and distribute
  • March 28, 2008: Unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance
  • July 16, 2008: Possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession with intent to distribute
  • April 13, 2012: Possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance, violation of probation
  • September 28, 2013: Distribution of narcotics, unlawful possession of a controlled dangerous substance, second-degree assault, second-degree escape
  • January 25, 2014: Possession of marijuana
  • August 31, 2014: Illegal gambling, trespassing
  • December 14, 2014: Possession of a controlled dangerous substance
  • December 31, 2014: Possession of narcotics with intent to distribute
  • January 14, 2015: Possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute
  • January 20, 2015: Fourth-degree burglary, trespassing
  • March 13, 2015: Malicious destruction of property, second-degree assault
  • March 20, 2015: Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance

His criminal record was one of drug charges and minor crimes.  He was involved in 20 criminal court cases–five were still active at the time of his death.

In February 2009, he was sentenced to four years in prison for two counts of drug possession with intent to deliver and was paroled in 2011–after serving only two.

In 2012, he was arrested for violating parole but was not sent back to prison.

In 2013, he returned to prison for a month before being released again.

He was due in court on a drug possession charge on April 24.

Who was he?

He was Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who spent seven days in a coma after he suffered injuries while in the custody of Baltimore police.

Click here: Freddie Gray Arrest Record, Criminal History & Rap Sheet

Freddie Gray

His last arrest came on April 12.

While being transported in a police van to the police station, Gray fell into a coma and was taken to a trauma center.  He died on April 19, owing to a broken neck.

On April 21, the six Baltimore police officers involved in his arrest were temporarily suspended with pay while an investigation occurred.

According to the police account of Gray’s arrest:

On April 12, at 8:39 A.M. Lieutenant Brian W. Rice, Officer Edward Nero, and Officer Garrett E. Miller were patrolling on bicycles and “made eye contact” with Gray.

According to Miller, Gray, “unprovoked upon noticing police presence,” fled on foot.   

After a brief foot chase, he was caught and arrested “without the use of force or incident,” according to  Miller.

Miller further wrote that:

  • He “noticed a knife clipped to the inside of his [Gray’s] front right pocket”; and
  • Gray “did unlawfully carry, possess, and sell a knife commonly known as a switch blade knife, with an automatic spring or other device for opening and/or closing the blade within the limits of Baltimore City. The knife was recovered by this officer and found to be a spring assisted one hand operated knife.”

A witness to Gray’s arrest have since stated that the police were “folding” Gray.  That is: One officer was bending Gray’s legs backwards, while another was pressing a knee into Gray’s neck.

A second witness claimed to have seen Gray being beaten with police batons.

On April 24, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said, “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.” 

He also admitted that his officers had failed to buckle Gray in the van–standard police procedure–before he was transported to the police station.

News reports have raised the possibility that Gray was treated to a “rough ride”–where a handcuffed prisoner is placed without a seatbelt in a vehicle deliberately driven over rough roads at high speed as an unofficial punishment.

Inside a typical police van

And Gray had clearly had enough run-ins with the law to be known to police as a habitual criminal.

In fact, medical examiners reported Gray sustained more injuries by slamming around inside the van, “apparently breaking his neck; a head injury he sustained matches a bolt in the back of the van.”

But even worse findings were to come for the officers involved.

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK NIGHT” TRIAL: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 5, 2015 at 12:20 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one–no matter where he lives or what he does–can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians–with rare exceptions–have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the NRA to risk its wrath.

Consider Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre.  And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control–let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes.

On July 22–only two days after the Century 16 Theater slaughter–U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said: “The fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place.

“You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm.  And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.”

That presumably includes the freedom of would-be mass murderers to carry out their fantasies.

Second, those who survived the massacre–and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t–should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs.  In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices.  They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program–thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals–such as those in Aurora–with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence–and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it.  Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA–like the tobacco industry–will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of such needless tragedies as the one in Aurora, Colorado.

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 4, 2015 at 12:29 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • In July, 2005, George Zimmerman was arrested for shoving a police officer during an underage drinking raid. The charges were dropped after he completed an alcohol education program. That same summer, his ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him, alleging that Zimmerman hit her.
  • Yet he was allowed to carry a loaded, hidden handgun as a Florida resident–thanks to the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the legislature.
  • Under that law: A Concealed Carry Permit is revoked only if a gun owner is convicted of a felony.  It is not suspended if he’s being investigated for a felony.  It is suspended only if he is actually charged.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed, 17-year-oldTrvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.”  A jury subsquently acquitted him, believing his claim of “self-defense.”
  • In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets.  The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw.  Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!”    http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, declared the NRA was “all in” to defeat Barack Obama in 2012.  Yet the President had meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto trains.
  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban–which expired in 2004. The NRA–aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally–easily overcame efforts to renew the law.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control,notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a,Tucson, Arizona, grocery store.  Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.  The total number of victims: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer. “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.”
  • This is the standard NRA response to each continuing massacre.
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.”  This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections. This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA had long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the still-current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA–an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

So what should the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre do to seek redress?  And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 1, 2015 at 12:07 am

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes slaughtered 12 Aurora, Colorado, moviegoers and critically wounded another 58.

On May 4, 2015, he finally goes on trial.

Even his attorneys admit he staged the masscare.

Of course, they’re claiming he was insane at the time and thus not responsible for his actions.  And certainly not deserving of the death penalty.

But there is another culprit whose presence at the trial makes it the proverbial elephant in the room.

The National Rifle Association (NRA).

Like Al Qaeda, the NRA promotes violence on an unprecedented scale.  Yet there are profound differences in the way Americans view these organizations.

Consider:

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

The World Trade Center under attack on 9/11

For more than ten years, the United States–through its global military and espionage networks–has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded Osama bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan–and shot Al Qaeda’s leader dead.

Navy SEALS

Turning from foreign death-dealers to domestic ones: According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Every day–365 days a year:

  • 270 people in America, 47 of them children and teens, are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents and police intervention;
  • 87 people die from gun violence, 33 of them murdered;
  • 8 children and teens die from gun violence;
  • 183 people are shot, but survive their gun injuries;
  • 38 children and teens are shot, but survive their gun injuries.

And what does all of this add up to?

  • In one year, almost 100,000 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents, or by police intervention.
  • Over a million Americans have been killed with guns since 1968, when Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
  • U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates.  The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher.
  • Gun violence impacts society in numerous ways: medical costs; costs of the criminal justice system; security precautions; and reductions in quality of life owing to fear of gun violence.
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.

(This average annual estimated composite picture of gun violence is based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

The National Rifle Association, of course.

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.  Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA endorsements–and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

At the time Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies.  On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 70 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into nuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces–Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALs–are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • American Intelligence has come a long way since 9/11.  The FBI’s top priority is to prevent another such terrorist attack, not simply investigate it afterward.
  • And waging war on criminals generally are about 836,787 full-time sworn local/state/Federal law enforcement officers.

If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies–such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration–can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

“Cop-killer” bullets

  • The NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defence, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • The NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

THE REAL CULPRIT IN “THE DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on April 30, 2015 at 9:01 am

It had happened it before–all too many times before:

  • Midnight vigils for the victims of yet another spree-killer.

  • Makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears.
  • Grief counselors for students at elementary, junior high and high schools.
  • And, of course, the inevitable question: “Why?”

And Americans had seen it all before–-too many times before:

  • After the San Ysidro McDonald’s shootings, 1984: 21 dead, 19 wounded.
  • After the 101 California Street shootings in San Francisco, 1993: 9 dead, 6 injured.
  • After the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, 1999: 15 dead, 21 wounded.
  • After the Virginia Tech shootings, 2007: 32 dead, 23 wounded.
  • After the Tucson shootings, 2011: 6 dead, 13 wounded.

And then, on July 20, 2012, came the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado: 12 dead, 58 wounded.

People who wanted nothing more than to see a movie they were eagerly anticipating: The latest addition to the hugely popular “Batman” franchise: The Dark Knight Rises.

The scene of the crime: The Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado

Snuggled into their seats, some eating popcorn or candy, others sipping sodas. None of them expecting that the violence on the screen would suddenly consume them in real-life.

It was a scene of which nightmares are made:

  • A sudden eruption of smoke and fire as a tear-gas canister explodes.
  • A lone gunman–brandishing a Smith & Wesson AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a 12-gauge Remington Model 870 shotgun, and a G23 .40 caliber Smith & Wesson Glock pistol.
  • First he blasts the ceiling with a shotgun, and then opens fire on the audience, stopping only to reload his weapon.
  • He begins aiming at the back of the room, and then targets people who are scrambling to escape in the aisles.
  • Some bullets penetrate the wall of the cinema and injure people in an adjoining theater, where the same film is being screened.
  • Adding to the nightmarish quality of the scene: The appearance of the gunman–dressed all in black: a ballistic helment, vestand leggings; a throat protector; a groin protector; a gas mask; and black tactical gloves.

As terrible as the massacre was, it could have been worse.

Police arrived in about 90 seconds and arrested the shooter, James Holmes, in the parking lot of the Century 16 Theater he had just ravaged.

Still, the statistics were terrible enough:

  • Twelve people–several of them heroes who died shielding others with their bodies–would never return to those who loved them.
  • Of the 58 wounded, an unknown number would be physically scarred for life.
  • Some would never fully recover from their injuries.
  • They would not be able to walk. Or see. Or use their arms or hands.
  • Almost all those who were in that theater–-even those who escaped without a scratch-–would be emotionally tormented for months or years to come.
  • Some would never escape those moments of murderous insanity.

It’s possible that Holmes, then 24, an honors graduate of the University of California Riverside, became that most lethal specimen: The genius who slides into madness.

James Holmes

Holmes moved to the University of  Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora in May, 2011, to pursue a PhD in neuroscience.

He had always excelled in his studies, but in early 2012, his grades took a sharp decline. In June, he told the college that he was going to drop out.

Meanwhile, he was amassing an arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

He bought two Glock pistols, a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun over the last two months from local gun stores and 6,000 rounds of ammunition via the Internet–-all purchased legally under state law.

In early July, 2012, Holmes ordered the paramilitary bulletproof clothing and gas mask that he intended to wear on his rampage.

Finally, he dyed his hair a shocking red-orange and rigged his university apartment with trip-wires and homemade booby-traps. When he was arrested, he told police: “I am the Joker.”

Commentators immediately began asking: Why did Holmes choose to snuff out the lives and dreams of so many people?

But a better question is: “How did he do it?”

It may never be finally known why he did it. But the answer to how makes clear a fundamental truth:

He could not have done it without access to the awesome firepower he was legally able to purchase:

  • The AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is designed for easy reloading. “Even without the grand-sized mag[azine]s, many people who are practiced can reload in 1½ to 2 seconds,” said Steven Howard, a Michigan attorney and security and firearms expert.

  • The AR-15 is a weapon of war.  Its only purpose is to kill large numbers of people–quickly.  Its 100-round drum magazine  allowed Holmes to five 50 to 60 rounds within one minute.
  • The Glock pistol uses a 15-round clip. When it’s done the shooter simply ejects the empty clip and slams in another one, and he’s ready for more killing.

And who has made all of this mayhem not only possible but politically invincible?

Who ultimately bears responsibility not only for those murdered and maimed at an Aurora theater but for the almost 100,000 people who are killed or wounded every year from gun violence?

Your friends at the National Rifle Association.

“AMERICAN TALIBAN” VS. AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2015 at 11:37 am

On April 15, CBS News broke a truly sensational and disturbing story:

Agents from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were investigating the online leak of home addresses of senior and former officials of the FBI, DHS and other Federal law enforcement agencies.

Even worse: Rather than Islamic terrorists being the culprits, the suspects are believed to be members of an American Right-wing extremist group.

The message was entitled: DHS-CIA-FBI TRAITORS HOME ADDRESSES.

It read:

“LET THESE EVIL NWO SATANISTS KNOW THAT THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY FOR THEIR 911 TREASON, AND THEIR FUTURE FEMA CAMP PLANNED PUBLIC CRACKDOWN TREASON ALSO

“JESUS IS LORD, AND THE PUBLIC IS IN CHARGE, NOT THESE SATANIC NWO STOOGES”

“NWO” could be an acronym for “New World Order,” a term used by conspiracy theorists to refer to a totalitarian world government.

In a statement, DHS said:

“The safety of our workforce is always a primary concern. DHS has notified employees who were identified in the posting and encouraged them to be vigilant. DHS will adjust security measures, as appropriate, to protect our employees.”

CBS did not say where the information was posted.  The likely reason for this was to limit the spread of such highly-classified information.

Click here: Right-Wing Group Blamed In Leak Of U.S. Officials’ Home Addresses: Report

The FBI is trying to locate the source of the posting.

Americans shouldn’t be shocked to find that a Right-wing group betrayed the safety of its fellow Americans.

The goals of both the American Right and Islamic terrorist groups such as the Taliban actually share much in common:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

A 2010 book, American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right, vividly documents the similarities between these two groups.

Its author is Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, an American political blog that publishes news and opinions from a liberal viewpoint.

American Taliban opens with this provocative statement:

“Yes, the Republican party, and the entire modern conservative movement is, in fact, very much like the Taliban.

“In their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban.

“The American Taliban–whether in their militaristic zeal, their brute faith in masculinity, their disdain for women’s rights, their outright hatred of gays, their aversion to science and modernity or their staunch anti-intellectualism–share a litany of mores, values, and tactics with Islamic extremists….

“Let’s be honest, the freedoms that jihadists hate are the very same freedoms that our own homegrown repressive ideologues hate: freedom of thought, of inquiry, of lifestyle.”

Its subsequent chapters document the all-consuming rage of the American Right to brutally control the lives of their fellow citizens.

Ironically, Moulitsas’ thesis is–unintentionally–supported by no less an authority than Right-wing author Dinesh D’Souza.

Among the bestsellers D’Souza has written: Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader, and Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream.

The title of his 2008 bestseller sums up D’Souza’s take on liberalism: The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.

From the book’s dustjacket:

“Muslims and other traditional people around the world allege that secular American values are being imposed on their societies and that these values undermine religious belief, weaken the traditional family, and corrupt the innocence of children.

“But it is not ‘America’ that is doing this to them, it is the American cultural left. What traditional societies consider repulsive and immoral, the cultural left considers progressive and liberating….

“D’Souza argues that the war on terror is really a war for the hearts and minds of traditional Muslims—and traditional peoples everywhere.  The only way to win the struggle with radical Islam is to convince traditional Muslims that America is on their side.”

* * * * *

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Adolf Hitler ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Albert Speer, his former architect and now Minister of Armaments, “the nation will also perish.

“This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Hitler’s view was: “If I can’t rule Germany, there won’t be a Germany.”

Apparently, some members of the American Right have reached the same decision about the United States. 

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