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BULLETS AND RIGHT-WINGERS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 30, 2015 at 9:57 am

“You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas–hitting what you aim at.”

“My wife, Heidi, who is a petite, 5’2 California blonde, she was standing at the tripod unloading the full machine gun with a pink baseball cap that said ‘armed and fabulous.'”

Yes, it was United States Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on the prowl for laughs–and votes–at a town hall meeting in Iowa.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) 

Normally, Cruz would do his vote-hunting in Texas.  But now Cruz has a bigger prize on his mind than simply being re-elected a United States Senator.

Cruz wants to be President in 2016.  And Iowa holds its precinct causes on February 1-2, 2016.

Cruz’ jokes about gun control came on June 19, only two days after Dylann Roof, a  white high school dropout, gunned down three black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dylann Roof

Following his remarks, Cruz headed to a shooting range, where he fired off rounds on a semiautomatic .223-caliber Smith and Wesson M&P15.

Cruz’ remarks no doubt appeared insensitive to the latest victims of gun violence and those who now mourned for them. But the comments of Charles L. Cotton took insulting the dead to a whole new level.

#NRA boardmember Charles L. Cotton: #Charleston tragedy could've been avoided if guns allowed in Churches.

Cotton is a National Rifle Association (NRA) board member who also runs TexasCHLForum.com, an online discussion forum about guns and gun owners’ rights in Texas and beyond.

In a discussion thread on June 18–one day after the church slaughter–a commenter noted that Clementa C. Pinckney, one of the nine people slain, was a pastor and a state legislator in South Carolina.

Cotton responded:

“And he voted against concealed-carry.  Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead.  Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

That discussion thread has since been deleted.

During a subsequent phone interview, Cotton emphasized that he had been speaking as a private citizen–and not as an NRA board member:

“It was a discussion we were having about so called gun-free zones. It’s my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else. If we look at mass shootings that occur, most happen in gun-free zones.”

If private citizens were allowed to carry guns everywhere, Cotton says, there will be fewer mass shootings because “if armed citizens are in there, they have a chance to defend themselves and other citizens.”

Of course, Cotton’s position–“there should not be any gun-free zones”–is exactly that of the NRA itself.

Under such circumstances, America will become a nation where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

Another point that Cotton didn’t mention: Dylann Roof did believe in concealed-carry–and it cost the lives of nine innocent men and women.

Finally, there is this: Even highly-trained shooters–such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service–don’t always respond as expected.

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland.  He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center.

Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd.

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards. And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters.

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire.  Before he could be subdued, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life.

Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was he Bremer’s only victim.

Three other people present were wounded unintentionally:

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E C Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer–before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated.

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles.  They rushed straight at Sadat–who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards–who had been trained by the CIA–panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones… anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are the victims of other mass slaughters.

REPUBLICANS AND WEAPONIZED HATRED: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2015 at 12:01 am

When President Barack Obama set out to provide healthcare for all Americans–-and not simply the wealthiest 1%–-Republicans tried to frighten voters with lies.

The most infamous of these was that healthcare reform would lead to wholesale murder by government “death panels,” as Sarah Palin put it.

Despite being the party of the extreme Right, Republicans delight in portraying Obama as the ultimate Fascist: Adolf Hitler.

At their rallies they brandish doctored photos of Obama sporting a Hitler forelock and toothbrush mustache.

Image result for Images of Obama as Hitler

And they claim he plans to set up concentration camps for those who disagree with him.

They also claim he intends to “take away our guns–just like Hitler.”

In fact:

  • Rather than disarming Germans, Adolf Hitler armed his fellow citizens and created the mightiest war machine Western Europe had ever seen; and
  • Rather than confiscating Americans’ firearms, Barack Obama has signed legislation allowing guns to be brought onto Amtrack and into national parks.

Even more ominously, heavily-armed Right-wingers have showed up at places where Obama was scheduled to speak.

In August, 2009, about a dozen people carrying guns, including one with a military-style rifle, milled among protesters outside a Phoenix convention center where President  Obama was giving a speech.

A week earlier, during Obama’s healthcare town hall in New Hampshire, a man carrying a sign reading “It is time to water the tree of liberty” stood outside with a pistol strapped to his leg.

On August 28, 2010, an armed Obama protester was arrested by police at the Alaska State Fair, where the President was scheduled to speak.

According to the Secret Service, Obama is the target of more than 30 death threats a day and is the most threatened President in history. The heightened danger he faces is stretching the Secret Service to its limits.

Secret Service agents guarding President Obama

Since Obama took office in 2009, the rate of threats against him has increased 400%.

Fred Solop, a Northern Arizona University political scientist, said the incidents in New Hampshire and Arizona could signal the beginning of a disturbing trend.

“When you start to bring guns to political rallies, it does layer on another level of concern and significance,” Solop said. “It actually becomes quite scary for many people. It creates a chilling effect in the ability of our society to carry on honest communication.”

The way to prevent such tragedies in the future is to hold fully accountable not just the shooters but those who deliberately point them toward their targets and repeatedly scream: “Kill the traitors!” 

Americans must shed their naive belief that “America is exempt from the political corruption of other countries.” And they must see the Republicans’ lust for absolute power at any price as the danger it presents to the future of the Republic.

Among the steps that need to be taken:

First, the families and friends of the Tucson massacre victims should file civil lawsuits against Sarah Palin and every other Republican who created the firestorm of hate that consumed 19 victims.

And survivors of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church should do likewise against those Right-wing groups that influenced Dylann Roof to snuff out nine innocent lives because they were black.

A legal precedent for such lawsuits emerged 20 years ago, and still remains viable.

On November 13, 1988 in Portland, Oregon, three white supremacist members of East Side White Pride and White Aryan Resistance (WAR) beat to death Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian man who came to the United States to attend college.

Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil suit (Berhanu v. Metzger) against Tom Metzger, founder of WAR.  They argued that WAR influenced Seraw’s killers by encouraging their group, East Side White Pride, to commit violence.

Tom and John Metzger were found civilly liable under the doctrine of vicarious liability, in which one can be liable for a tort committed by a subordinate or by another person who is taking instructions.

In October 1990, the jury returned the largest civil verdict in Oregon history at the time—$12.5 million—against Metzger and WAR. The Metzgers’ house was seized, and most of WAR’s profits went to paying off the judgment.

Second, the FBI and Justice Department should launch an all-out investigation into not simply right-wing hate groups but those political leaders who openly or secretly encourage and support their activities. 

Those who are found doing so should be indicted and prosecuted under the Patriot Act and the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Third, the Secret Service should immediately adopt the policy that no one but sworn law enforcement officers will be allowed to carry firearms within the immediate vicinity of the President.  And it should enforce that policy through its elite countersniper teams.

Finally, President Obama should do what President Clinton failed to do at the time of the 1995 Right-wing truck-bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building: He should publicly condemn those Republicans who give “aid and comfort” to the right-wing extremists whose support they openly court.

Unless such steps are taken, outrages such as the Tucson slaughter will continue to remain a needless “mystery.”  And those outrages will continue until a Republican version of the swastika permanently flies over the capitol dome and the White House.

REPUBLICANS AND WEAPONIZED HATRED: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2015 at 5:29 pm

The electoral success of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red-baiting treason slanders proved too alluring for other Republicans to resist.

Joseph McCarthy

Among those who have greatly profited from hurling similar charges are:

  • President Richard Nixon
  • His vice president, Spiro Agnew
  • Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
  • Former Congressman Dick Armey
  • President George W. Bush
  • Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin
  • Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Glenn Beck
  • Sean Hannity
  • Bill O’Reilly.

During the 1992 Presidential campaign, Republicans tried to paint Bill Clinton as a brainwashed “Manchurian candidate” because he had briefly visited the Soviet Union during his college years.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Republicans lost their “soft on Communism” slander-line.  So they tried to persuade voters that Democrats were “soft on crime.”

When riots flared in 1992 after the acquittal of LAPD officers who had savagely beaten Rodney King, President George H.W. Bush blamed the carnage on the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s.

George H.W. Bush

After losing the White House to Clinton at the polls in 1992 and 1996, Republicans tried to oust him another way: By impeaching him over a tryst with a penis-loving intern named Monica Lewinsky.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to impeach, but the effort was defeated in the Democratically-controlled Senate.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama pushed the Republican “treason chorus” to new heights of infamy.

Barack Obama

Almost immediately after Obama took office, he came under attack by an industry of right-wing book authors such as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

The following titles vividly reveal the hates, fears and ambitions of their authors–and audience:

  • Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda by Sean Hannity
  • Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation by Jason Mattera
  • How Barack Obama is Bankrupting the U.S. Economy by Stephen Moore
  • Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism by Sean Hannity
  • The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists,Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists by Aaron Klein
  • The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency by Ken Blackwell
  • Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Croniesby Michelle Malkin
  • Why Obama’s Government Takeover of Health Care Will Be a Disaster by David Gratzer
  • To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine by Newt Gingrich
  • Obama’s Radical Transformation of America: Year One by Joshua Muravchik
  • How the Obama Administration Threatens to Undermine Our Elections by John Fund
  • Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policicies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America by Christopher C. Horner
  • The Bad Science and Bad Policy of Obama’s Global Warning Agenda by Roy W. Spencer
  • America’s March to Socialism: Why We’re One Step Closer to Giant Missile Parades by Glenn Beck
  • Obama’s Betrayal of Israel by Michael Ledeen
  • The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality by Jerome R. Corsi
  • The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media’s Favorite Candidate by David Freddoso
  • Censorship: The Threat to Silence Talk Radio by Brian Jennings
  • The War On Success: How the Obama Agenda Is Shattering the American Dream by Tommy Newberry
  • Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them by Steven Milloy
  • Liberalism is a Mental Disorder: Savage Solutions by Michael Savage
  • Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter
  • How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter by Ann Coulter
  • Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right by Ann Coulter
  • If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans by Ann Coulter
  • Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America by Ann Coulter
  • Catastrophe: How Obama, Congress and the Special Interests Are Transforming…a Slump into a Crash, Freedom Into Socialism and a Disaster into a Catastrophe….And How to Fight Back by Dick Morris

Consider the vocabulary Right-wingers use to describe their political adversaries:

“Liberals,” “radicals, “bankrupting,” “treason,” subversion,” “slander,” “terrorism,” “betrayal,” “catastrophe,” “shattering the American dream,” “leftists,” “Communists,” “government takeover,” “socialism,” “power grab,” “secularism,” “environmentalism.”

And while the Right lusts to constantly compare Obama to Adolf Hitler, its propaganda campaign draws heavily on the Nazi leader’s own advice.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.

“Those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas.  These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Among the lies most “persistently repeated” by Republicans about Obama:

Obama isn’t an American citizen.  The reason: To “prove” that he is an illegitimate President, and should be removed from office.

Even the President’s releasing of the long-form version of his birth certificate in 2011–showing that he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya–didn’t end these falsehoods.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

Oaama is a secret Muslim who intends to betray America to his Islamic masters.

In fact, Obama has eliminated far more Al Qaeda leaders than George W. Bush ever did–including the most sought-after one of all: Osama bin Laden. 

REPUBLICANS AND WEAPONIZED HATRED: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2015 at 12:10 am

“The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue and, with almost every pronouncement for 50 years, given them an enemy politicized, racialized and indivisible.”

So wrote Rolling Stone writer in a blistering June 19 editorial.  The touchstone was the slaughter of nine black worshippers by a white supremacist at a South Carolina black church.

But the proof of  Republican culpability in political violence goes back much further.

Consider:

Gabrille Giffords, 40, is a moderate Democrat who narrowly wins re-election in November, 2010, against a Republican Tea Party candidate.

Her support of President Obama’s health care reform law has made her a target for violent rhetoric–-especially from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

In March, 2010, Palin releases a map featuring 20 House Democrats that uses cross-hairs images to show their districts. In case her supporters don’t get the message, she later writes on Twitter: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!”

Sarah Palin’s “Crosshairs” Map

As the campaign continues, Giffords finds her Tucson office vandalized after the House passes the healthcare  overhaul in March.

Giffords senses that she has become a target for removal–in more than political terms. In an interview after the vandalizing of her office, she refers to the animosity against her by conservatives.

She specifically cites Palin’s decision to list her seat as one of the top “targets” in the midterm elections.

“For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the cross-hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action,” Giffords tells MSNBC.

At one of her rallies, her aides call the police after an attendee drops a gun.

Giffords may have seen the spectre of violence closing in on her. In April, 2010, she supported Rep. Raúl Grijalva after he had to close two offices when he and his staff received threats.

He had called for a boycott of Arizona businesses in opposition to the state’s controversial immigration law.

“I am deeply troubled about reports that Congressman Grijalva and members of his staff have been subjected to death threats,” Giffords said.

“This is not how we, as Americans, express our political differences. Intimidation has no place in our representative democracy. Such acts only make it more difficult for us to resolve our differences.”

But intimidation–-and worse–-does have a place among the tactics used by influential Republicans in the pursuit of absolute power.

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent–-and violence-arousing–-rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like Sarah Palin fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs–and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcases” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked–-shocked!–-that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful–-as the January 8, 2011 Tucson shootings did–-then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in this case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.

Consider the following:

  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) yelled “baby killer” at Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) on the House floor.
  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house.  That’s the only way that you’re going to win.  That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”
  • Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said Tea Partiers had “every right” to use racist and homophobic slurs against Democrats, justifying it via Democrats’ “totalitarian tactics.”
  • Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
  • Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them.  No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”
  • Rep. Louisa M. Slauter (D-NY) received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.

Since the end of World War 11, Republicans have regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-sponsored thoughts.

Republicans had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952, during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Determined to regain the Presidency by any means, they found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence–by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

The fact that McCarthy never uncovered one actual case of treason was conveniently overlooked during his lifetime.

REPUBLICANS AND WEAPONIZED HATRED: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 23, 2015 at 3:39 pm

On June 17, Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

At 21, Roof was unemployed, dividing his time between playing video games and taking drugs.

Dylann Roof

The signs of Roof’s malignant racism were evident long before he turned mass murderer:

  • He had posed for a photo sitting on the hood of his parents’ car–whose license plate bore a Confederate flag.
  • He had posed for pictures wearing a jacket sporting the white supremacist flags of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa.
  • He told a friend that he hoped “to start a civil war” between the black and white races.
  • Roof reportedly told friends and neighbors of his plans to kill people.
  • In the midst of his massacre of unarmed worshippers, he told one of his victims: “You’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country.”  Then Roof shot him.

The evidence makes clear that Roof’s slaughter was racially motivated.  Yet one Republican Presidential candidate after another has refused to acknowledge it.

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida:  “I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes.”

Rick Santorum, former United States Senator from Pennsylvania: “You talk about the importance of prayer in this time and we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before. It’s a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation.”

Bobby Jindal, former governor of Louisiana:  “I don’t think we’ll ever know what was going on in his mind.”

But Rolling Stone magazine writer Jeb Lund left no doubt as to what–and who–was ultimately responsible for this crime: Racism and Republicans.

In a June 19 editorial–published two days after the massacre–Lund noted: “This [crime] is political because American movement conservatism has already made these kinds of killings political.

“The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue and, with almost every pronouncement for 50 years, given them an enemy politicized, racialized and indivisible.

“Movement conservatives have fetishized a tendentious and ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment to the point that the Constitution itself somehow paradoxically ‘legitimizes’ an armed insurrection against the government created by it.

“Those leading said insurrection are swaddled by the blanket exculpation of patriotism. At the same time, they have synonymized the Democratic Party with illegitimacy and abuse of the American order.

“This is no longer an argument about whether one party’s beliefs are beneficial or harmful, but an attitude that labels leftism so antithetical to the American idea that empowering it on any level is an act of usurpation.”

Click here: The Charleston Shooter: Racist, Violent, and Yes – Political | Rolling Stone

Lund is absolutely right.  And the evidence for this was on display long before Dylann Roof opened fire on “uppity blacks” praying in their own church.

Consider:

On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona.  After a miraculous recovery, she continues to struggle with language and has lost 50% of her vision in both eyes.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

She vowed to return to her former Congressional duties, but was forced to resign for health reasons in 2012.

Giffords was only one victim of a shooting spree that claimed the lives of six people and left 13 others wounded.

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.

Although the actual shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was immediately arrested, those who fanned the flames of political violence that consumed 19 people that day have remained unpunished.

Consider the circumstances behind the shootings:

John Roll is Arizona’s chief federal judge.  Appointed in 2006, he wins acclaim as a respected jurist and leader who pushes to beef up the court’s strained bench to handle a growing number of border crime-related cases.

In 2009, he becomes a target for threats after allowing a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit by illegal aliens to proceed against a local rancher. The case arouses the fury of local talk radio hosts, who encourage their audiences to threaten Roll’s life.

In one afternoon, Roll logs more than 200 threatening phone calls. Callers threaten the judge and his family. They post personal information about Roll online.

Roll and his wife are placed under fulltime protection by deputy U.S. marshals. Roll finds living under security “unnerving and invasive.”

Authorities identify four men believed responsible for the threats. But Roll declines to press charges on the advice of the Marshals Service.

THE TRUTH ABOUT POLICE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 19, 2015 at 12:01 am

Lori Tankel had a problem: A lot of angry people thought she was George Zimmerman.

She began getting death threats on her cellphone after a jury acquitted him on July 13, 2013, of the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Unfortunately for Tankel, her number was one digit away from the number Zimmerman used to make his call to police just before he fatally shot Martin.

George Zimmerman

The phone number had been shown throughout the trial.  And, believing the number was Zimmerman’s, someone posted Tankel’s number online.

Just minutes after the verdict, Tankel began getting death threats.

“We’re going to kill you.  We’re going to get you.  Watch your back,” threatened a typical call.

Tankel worked as a sales representative for several horse companies.  She had grown used to relying on her phone to keep her business going.

But, almost as soon as the Zimmerman verdict came in, “My phone just started to blow up. Phone call after phone call, multiple phone calls,” Tankel said.

So she did what any ordinary citizen, faced with multiple death threats, would do: She called the police.

According to her, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office told her the department itself receives around 400 death threats a minute on social media sites.

In short: Unless you’re wealthy, a politician or–best of all–a cop, don’t expect the police to protect you if your life is threatened.

If you doubt it, consider the lessons to be learned when, in February, 2013, Christopher Dorner declared war on his former fellow officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

First, above everyone else, police look out for each other.

Robert Daley bluntly revealed this truth in his 1971 bestseller, Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D.  A  police reporter for the New York Times, he served for one year as a deputy police commissioner.

A great many solvable crimes in the city were never solved, because not enough men were assinged to the case.  Or because those assigned were lazy or hardly cared or got sidetracked.

“But when a cop got killed, no other cop got sidetracked.  Detectives worked on the case night and day….

“In effect, the citizen who murdered his wife’s lover was sought by a team of detectives, two men.  But he who killed a cop was sought by 32,000.”

Second, don’t expect the police to do for you what they’ll do for one another.

The LAPD assigned security and surveillance details to at least 50 threatened officers and their families.  A typical detail consists of two to five or more guards.  And those guards must be changed every eight to 12 hours.

Those details stayed in place long after Dorner was killed in a firefight on February 12.

But if your bullying neighbor threatens to kill you, don’t expect the police to send a guard detail over.  They’ll claim: ”We can’t do anything until the guy does something.  If he does, give us a call.”

Third, the more status and wealth you command, the more likely the police are to address your complaint or solve your case.

If you’re rich, your complaint will likely get top priority and the best service the agency can provide.

But if you’re poor or even middle-class without high-level political or police connections, you’ll be told: “We just don’t have the resources to protect everybody.”

Fourth, don’t expect your police department to operate with the vigor or efficiency of TV police agencies.

“I want this rock [Hawaii] sealed off,” Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) routinely ordered when pursuing criminals on “Hawaii Five-O.”

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Real-life police departments, on the other hand:

  • Often lack state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
  • Often lose or accidentally destroy important files.
  • Are–like all bureaucracies–staffed by those who are lazy, indifferent or incompetent.
  • Are notoriously competitive, generally refusing to share information with other police departments-–thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.

Even when police ”solve” a crime, that simply means making an arrest. 

After that, there are at least three possible outcomes:

  • The District Attorney may decide not to file charges. 
  • Or the perpetrator may plead to a lesser offense and serve only a token sentence-–or none at all. 
  • Or he might be found not guilty by a judge or jury.

Fifth, the result of all this can only be increased disrespect for law enforcement from a deservedly–and increasingly–cynical public.

It is the witnessing of blatant inequities and hypocrisies such as those displayed in the Christopher Dorner case that most damages public support for police at all levels.

When citizens believe police care only about themselves, and lack the ability-–or even the will-–to protect citizens or avenge their victimization by arresting the perpetrators, that is a deadly blow to law enforcement.

Police depend on citizens for more than crime tips.  They depend upon them to support hiring more cops and  buying state-of-the-art police equipment.  When public support vanishes, so does much of that public funding.

The result can only be a return to the days of the lawless West, where citizens–as individuals or members of vigilantee committees–looked only to themselves for protection.

MEXICO: A FAILED NATION-STATE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 12, 2015 at 12:24 am

On May 22, 2013, Mexican soldiers arrested Yanira Maldonado–-mother of seven-–as she and her husband, Gary, were returning to Arizona after attending a family funeral in Mexico.

During a search of their bus at a military checkpoint in the northwestern state of Sonora, soldiers asked everyone to get off.

Yanira Maldonado

At first, Gary Maldonado was told that marijuana had been found under his seat and found himself arrested.  After his father contacted the U.S. Consulate in Hermosillo, authorities said they were mistaken and released Gary.

Then they charged his wife, claiming they had found 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat.

After being detained in Mexico for more than a week on drug charges, Yanira Maldonado was released and returned to the United States.

Maldonado met with reporters briefly and said, “Many thanks to everyone, especially my God who let me go free, my family, my children, who with their help, I was able to survive this test.”

Gary Maldonado said he believed Mexican soldiers at the checkpoint wanted a bribe.

It’s entirely likely that this was the case.

Anyone who reads Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields, will certainly think so.

Written by Investigative Reporter Charles Bowden and published in 2010, Murder City provides a terrifying–-and almost lethally depressing–-view of what happens when a city–-and a country–-disintegrates.

Ciudad Juárez lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. A once-thriving border town, it now resembles a failed state. Notorious as the place where women disappear, its murder rate exceeds that of Baghdad or Mogadishu.

It’s so overwhelmed with the violence of drug trafficking that its leading citizens—police, politicians, even the drug lords—find it safer to live in El Paso.

Hundreds of millions of narco-dollars flow into Juárez each week, and the violence and corruption that follow yield 200 to 300 murders each year.

Among the casualties of that violence:

  • A reporter–who has dared to expose cartel-corrupted members of the Mexican Army–is forced to flee to the United States with his young son.
  • A beautiful woman who became the mistress of one drug cartel leader is gang-raped by members of a rival cartel.
  • A teenage killer for the cartels is now being hunted for having run afoul of his murderous bosses.

This is a city–-and a country–-where virtually no one is safe.

  • Mexican police pay big bribes to be assigned to narcotics enforcement squads.  The reason: Not to suppress the rampant drug trafficking but to enrich themselves by seizing and selling those narcotics.
  • Residents awaken at dawn to find bodies of the drug cartels’ latest victims dumped on streets–their hands, feet and mouths bound with silver and gray duct tape.
  • Mexican policewomen are often snatched off the streets and raped–by members of the Mexican Army.
  • Honest policemen–and even police chiefs–are routinely gunned down by cartel members.

If there is any one story in Murder City that symbolizes the total corruption of a society awash with drugs and the profits they produce, it is this:

A Mexican priest serves as confessor to drug lords.  They, in turn, believe their confessions to be safe, as they are supposed to be heard only by the priest and God.

But one of the drug lords wears a large gold crucifix, which the priest secretly covets.

So he turns from drug lord confessor to police informer–-and the Mexican police raid the next drug lord gathering and confiscate a large quantity of narcotics.

The police don’t intend to turn in the seized narcotics.  Instead, they will sell these for their own profit.

And as a reward for his cooperation, the priest is given the large gold crucifix–-which he blesses and consecrates to his God.

Who, exactly, is behind all these killings?

And why?

And who, if anyone, is in charge of Juárez–-or Mexico?

Bowden states it is difficult to answer such questions because the Mexican press has been thoroughly corrupted by drug cartel monies or terrorized by drug cartel hit squads.

Reporters have been murdered–-by the cartels and the army–-for writing anything about killings, the army or the cartels.

The world of Murder City is a nightmarish one:

  • Members of drug cartels live like kings.
  • Their bribes and violence have corrupted all branches of the Mexican government, military and police forces.
  • Ordinary Mexicans live in grinding poverty, thanks to American factories paying starvation wages

When you leave its pages, you are grateful that you can safely put its evil behind you–-unlike the residents of Juarez who remain trapped in its web.

Meanwhile, there is a lesson in this book–-and in the case of Yanira Maldonado–-for anyone with common sense to learn: Stay out of Mexico.

During the 1980s, when Americans were being routinely kidnapped in Beirut, still others–-as if bent on suicide–-were getting passports to travel to Lebanon.

For residents of this failed nation-state called Mexico, it’s too late.  Such endemic corruption can never be fought successfully.

But for Americans who do not live there, the message should be clear: “Keep out.  Enter at your own risk.”

A REMEDY FOR BLACKMAIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2015 at 12:03 am

On May 28, Dennis Hastert, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives (1999-2007) was indicted for violating federal banking laws and lying to the FBI.

He had tried to conceal $3.5 million in hush-money payments over several years to a man who was blackmailing him.

Dennis Hastert

The source of the blackmail: A homosexual–and possibly coerced–relationship with an underage student while Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School, in Yorkville, Illinois–long before Hastert entered Congress in 1981.

Hastert wasn’t indicted for having had a sexual relationship with an underage student. The statute of limitations had long ago run out on that offense.

He was indicted for trying to evade federal banking laws and lying to the FBI.

According to the indictment, the FBI began investigating the cash withdrawals in 2013.

The Bureau wanted to know if Hastert was using the cash for criminal purposes or if he was the victim of a criminal extortion.

When questioned by the FBI, Hastert said he was storing cash because he didn’t feel safe with the banking system: “Yeah, I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”

Thus, irony: By giving in to blackmail, Hastert:

  • Lost $3.5 million;
  • Unintentionally engineered his arrest and indictment; and
  • Ensured that his darkest secret would be revealed.

There is a lesson to be learned here–one that longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover well understood: Giving in to blackmail only empowers the blackmailer even more.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Divison, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

“Boy, the dirt he [Hoover] has on those Senators!” John F. Kennedy–a former Senator now President–gushed to his journalist-friend, Benjamin C. Bradlee.

Kennedy soon came to know that even Presidents could be targeted for blackmail.

In May, 1962, Hoover privately informed Kennedy that the FBI had learned that Judith Campbell, the mistress of Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana, had another bedmate: JFK himself.

John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy

Hoover had feared being retired by the President’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. It had been RFK who had ordered Hoover to attack the Mafia as he had long attacked the Communist Party USA.

Now, as a result of that anti-Mob effort, the FBI had picked up evidence linking the President with the mistress of a top Mafia boss.

Hoover’s tenure as FBI director was thus assured–until his death on May 2, 1972, of a heart attack.

Narcotics agents have their own methods of blackmail in dealing with informants.

When a drug-abuser and/or dealer is coerced into becoming a “snitch,” the narcotics agent orders him to call another user/dealer he knows.

The agent then tapes the call–and makes sure his new informant knows it.  From that moment, the “snitch” knows there’s no way out except cooperating with his new master.

The only effective way of handling blackmail was demonstrated by Arthur Wellesley, known to history as the Duke of Wellington.

The Duke of Wellington

In 1815, he had defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, ending France’s longstanding threat to England.  With that victory came the honors of a grateful nation.

Then, in December, 1824, Wellington found himself the target of blackmail by Joseph Stockdale, a pornographer and scandal-monger.

“My Lord Duke,” Stockdale write in a letter, “In Harriette Wilson’s memoirs, which I am about to publish, are various anecdotes of Your Grace which it would be most desirable to withhold….

“I have stopped the Press for the moment, but as the publication will take place next week, little delay can necessarily take place.”

Wilson was a famous London courtesan past her prime, then living in exile in Paris.  She was asking Wellington to pay money to be left out of her memoirs.

From Wellington came the now-famous reply: “Publish and be damned!”

Wilson’s memoirs appeared in installments, naming half the British aristocracy and scandalizing London society.

And, true to her threat, she named Wellington as one of her lovers–and a not very satisfying one at that.

Wellington was a national hero, husband and father. Even so, his reputation did not suffer, and he went on to become prime minister.

Click here: Rear Window: When Wellington said publish and be damned: The Field Marshal and the Scarlet Woman – Voices

Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House, might now wish he had followed the example of the Duke of Wellington.

His reputation might have been trashed, but he wouldn’t now be facing prosecution.

As matter now stand, his reputation has been trashed, and he is facing prosecution.

A CLASH OF TITANS: RFK VS. HOFFA–PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 9, 2015 at 12:02 am

The 1983 TV mini-series, “Blood Feud,” chronicles the decade-long struggle between Robert F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa.

As Attorney General, Kennedy declares war–for the first time in American history–on the Mafia.  He forces longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover–who has long refused to tackle the Mob–to investigate and arrest mobsters throughout the nation.

He also brings new charges against Hoffa–and, once again, is outraged to see Hoffa acquitted.

But under the unrelenting pressures of being in the crosshairs of the FBI, Hoffa begins to crack.  He tells a trusted colleague, Edward Grady Partin (Brian Dennehy) how easy it would be to assassinate Kennedy with a rifle or a bomb.

Later, Partin gets into a legal jam–and is abandoned by the Teamsters.  Hoping to cut a deal, he relays word to the Justice Department of Hoffa’s threats against the Attorney General.

Now working for the Justice Department, Partin sends in reports on Hoffa’s juror-bribing efforts in yet another trial.  Hoffa again beats the rap–but now Kennedy has the insider’s proof he needs to put him away for years.

Meanwhile, the Mafia despairs of the increasing pressure of the Justice Department. At a swanky restaurant, several high-ranking members agree that “something” must be done.

[Although this scene is fictional, it’s clearly based on an infamous outburst of Carlos Marcello, the longtime Mafia boss of New Orleans.

Carlos Marcello

In 1962, Marcello–who had been deported to Guatemala by RFK, then illegally re-entered the country–flew into a rage when a business colleague mentioned Kennedy.

“Take the stone out of my shoe!” he shouted, echoing a Sicilian curse.  “Don’t you worry about that little Bobby sonofabitch.  He’s going to be taken care of!”

When his colleague warned that murdering RFK would trigger the wrath of his brother, President John F.Kennedy, Marcello replied: “In Sicily they say if you want to kill a dog you don’t cut off the tail. You go for the head.”

Marcello considered President Kennedy to be the head.  And he added that he planned to use a “nut” to do the job.]

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas.  “Blood Feud” clearly implies that the Mafia was responsible.

[The House Assassinations Committee investigated this possibility in 1978, and determined that Marcello had the means, motiva and opportunity to kill JFK.  But it could not find any conclusive evidence of his involvement.]

Even with the President dead, RFK’s Justice Department continues to pursue Hoffa.  In 1964, he is finally convicted of jury tampering and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.

Hoping to avoid prison, Hoffa phones Robert Kennedy, offering future Teamsters support if RFK runs  for President. To prove he can deliver, he tells Kennedy that the Teamsters have even penetrated the FBI.

Kennedy confronts J. Edgar Hoover, accusing him of illegally planting wiretaps in Mob hangouts all over the country.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy 

Hoover retorts that this had been the only way to obtain the prosecution-worthy intelligence Kennedy had demanded: “You loved that flow of information.  You didn’t want it to stop.”

Kennedy: Why did you keep the FBI out of the fight against the Mob for decades?

Hoover: “Every agency that came to grips with them got corrupted by their money.”

[So far as is known, Hoover never made any such confession.  Historians continue to guess his reason for leaving the Mob alone for decades.]

RFK then mentions the CIA’s plots to employ the Mob to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro

[The agency had wanted to please President Kennedy, and the Mafia had wanted to regain its casinos lost to the Cuban Revolution.]

“The CIA, doing business with the Mob,” says Kennedy. “The FBI, leaking information to its enemies [the Teamsters].”  Then, sadly: “I guess it’s true–everyone does business with everyone.”

[So far as is known, the FBI did not pass on secrets to the Teamsters.  But during the 1970s, the Mafia  penetrated the Cleveland FBI office through bribes to a secretary. Several FBI Mob informants were  “clipped” as a result.]

In 1967, Hoffa goes to prison.  He stays there until, in 1971, President Richard Nixon commutes his sentence in hopes of gaining Teamsters support for his 1972 re-election.

Kennedy leaves the Justice Department in 1964 andis elected U.S. Senator from New York.  In 1968 he runs for President.  On June 5, after winning the California primary, he’s assassinated.

Hoffa schemes to return to the presidency of the Teamsters–a post now held by his successor, Frank Fitzsimmons.  He runs the union in a more relaxed style than Hoffa, thus giving the Mob greater control over its pension fund.

And the Mafia likes it that way.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant near Detroit.  He had gone there to meet with two Mafia leaders.

Forty years later:

  • Labor unions are a shadow of their former power.
  • The threat they once represented to national prosperity has been replaced by that of predatory  corporations like Enron and AIG.
  • The war RFK began on the Mafia has continued, sending countless mobsters to prison.
  • Millions of Americans who once expected the Federal Government to protect them from crime now believe the Government is their biggest threat.
  • The idealism that fueled RFK’s life has virtually disappeared from politics.

A CLASH OF TITANS: RFK VS. HOFFA–PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2015 at 12:01 am

Forty-seven years ago today, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy was laid to rest in Arlington Cemetary, only feet away from the grave of his elder brother–President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Campaigning for the Presidency in 1968, he had just won the crucial California primary on June 4–when he was shot in the back of the head.  His killer: Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian furious at Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Eleven years earlier, as a young, idealistic attorney, Kennedy had declared war on James Riddle Hoffa, the president of the Mafia-dominated International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union.

As chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee, Kennedy was appalled at the corruption he discovered among high-ranking Teamster officials.  As he saw it, under Hoffa’s leadership, the union was nothing less than “a conspiracy of evil.”

Robert F. Kennedy as Chief Counsel, Senate Labor Rackets Committee

Hoffa, in turn, held an equally unflattering view of Kennedy.  “A rich punk,” said Hoffa, who didn’t know or care about “the average workingman.”

In 1983, Blood Feud, a two-part TV mini-series, depicted the 11-year animosity between Kennedy and Hoffa.  Although it took some dramatic liberties, its portrayal of the major events of that period remains essentially accurate.

Today, labor unions are a rapidly-vanishing species, commanding far less political influence than they did 50 years ago.  As a result, young viewers of this series may find it hard to believe that labor ever held such sway, or that the Teamsters posed such a threat.

James Riddle Hoffa testifying before the Senate Labor Rackets Committee

And in an age when millions see “Big Government” as the enemy by millions, they may feel strong reservations about the all-out war that Robert F. Kennedy waged against Hoffa.

The series opens in 1957, when Hoffa (Robert Blake) is a rising figure within the Teamsters. Kennedy (Cotter Smith) is chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee.

At first, Hoffa tries to ingratiate himself with Kennedy, telling him: “I know everybody who can help me and anybody who can hurt me.”

A wily Hoffa decides to parley Kennedy’s anti-corruption zeal into a path to power for himself.  Via his attorney, Eddie Cheyfitz, he feeds Kennedy incriminating evidence against Dave Beck, president of the Teamsters.

Robert Blake as James Hoffa

Confronted with a Senate subpoena, Beck flees the country–paving the way for Hoffa to assume the top position in the union. Hoffa believes he has solved two problems at once.

With the ousting of Beck, Kennedy should now be satisfied: “He’s got his scalp.  Now he can move on to other things while I run the union.”

But Hoffa has guessed wrong–with fatal results. Realizing that he’s been “played” by Hoffa, a furious Kennedy strikes back.

Cotter Smith as Robert Kennedy

He orders increased surveillance of Hoffa and his topmost associates.  He subpoenas union records and members of both the Teamsters and Mafia to appear before his committee in public hearings.

And he tries to enlist the aid of legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Ernest Borgnine).  But Hoover wants no part of a war against organized crime, whose existence he refuses to admit.

Meanwhile, Kennedy’s confrontations with Hoffa grow increasingly fierce. In open hearings, Kennedy accuses Hoffa of receiving kickbacks in the name of his wife. Hoffa damns him for “dirtying my wife’s name.”

Kennedy secures an indictment against Hoffa for hiring a spy to infiltrate the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. He’s so certain of a conviction that he tells the press he’ll “jump off the Capitol building” if Hoffa beats the rap.

But Hoffa’s lawyer, Edward Bennett Williams (Jose Ferrer) puts Kennedy himself on the witness stand.  There he portrays Kennedy as a spoiled rich man who’s waging a vendetta against Hoffa.

Hoffa beats the rap, and offers to send Kennedy a parachute.  But he jokingly warns reporters: “Hey, Bobby, you better have it checked.  I don’t trust myself!”

By 1959, Kennedy’s work as chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee is over.  But not his determination to send Hoffa to prison.

Throughout 1960, he manages the Presidential campaign for his brother, John F. Kennedy (Sam Groom).  By a margin of only 100,000 votes, John wins the election.

Hoffa thinks that his troubles are over, that “Bobby” will move on to other pursuits and forget about the Teamsters.

Kennedy moves on to another job–the office of United States Attorney General.  For Hoffa, it’s a nightmare come true.

JFK, needing someone in the Cabinet he can trust completely, browbeats Robert into becoming the the nation’s top cop.

As Attorney General, Kennedy must no longer beg J. Edgar Hoover to attack organized crime.  He can–and does–order him to do so.

Throughout the country, the Mafia feels a new heat as FBI agents plant illegal electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their innermost sanctums.  Agents openly tail mobsters–and send them to prison in large numbers.

And Kennedy sets up a special unit, composed of topflight prosecutors and investigators, to go after just one man: James Riddle Hoffa.  The press comes to call it  the “Get Hoffa” squad.

Hoffa continues to beat federal prosecutors in court.  But he believes he’s under constant surveillance by the FBI, and his nerves are starting to give way.

Convinced that the FBI has bugged his office, he literally tears apart the room, hoping to find the bug.  But he fails to do so.

What he doesn’t know is he’s facing a more personal danger–from one of his closest associates.

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