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Archive for the ‘Law Enforcement’ Category

BE YOUR OWN AIR MARSHAL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 17, 2014 at 12:05 am

On June 5, 2013, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) finally came face-to-face with reality.

It announced that it was abandoning its plan to let passengers carry small knives, baseball bats, golf clubs and other sports equipment onto planes, as it had originally intended.

But TSA didn’t drop this plan because it wanted to.  It did so only after fierce opposition from passengers, Congressional leaders and airline industry officials.

TSA Administrator John Pistole unveiled the proposal in March, 2013.

Said Pistole: Increased protective measures–such as hardened cockpit doors and armed off-duty pilots traveling on planes–made it impossible for terrorists to use small folding knives to highjack a plane.

He said that intercepting them takes time that would be better used searching for explosives and other more serious threats.

TSA screeners confiscate over 2,000 small folding knives a day from passengers.

The proposal would have permitted folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or less in length and are less than 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) wide.

The aim was to allow passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other knives.

Passengers also would also have been allowed to bring onboard novelty-sized baseball bats less than 24 inches long, toy plastic bats, billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs.

The United States has gradually eased airline security measures that took effect after 9/11.

In 2005, TSA said it would let passengers carry on small scissors, knitting needles, tweezers, nail clippers and up to four books of matches.

The agency began focusing on keeping explosives off planes, because intelligence officials believed that was the greatest threat to commercial aviation.

With regard to the use of edged weapons as terrorist tools:

  • The terrorists who highjacked four jetliners and turned them into flying bombs on September 11, 2001, used only boxcutters to cut the throats of stewards and stewardesses; and
  • They then either forced their way into the cockpits and overpowered and murdered the pilots, or lured the pilots to leave the cabins and murdered them.

And for all the publicity given the TSA’s “Air Marshal” program, it’s been airline passengers who have repeatedly been the ones to subdue unruly fliers.

Consider the following incidents:

  • On August 11, 2000, Jonathan Burton, a passenger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight tried to break into the cockpit was killed by other passengers who restrained him.
  • On May 9, 2011, crew members and passengers wrestled a 28-year-old man to the cabin floor after he began pounding on the cockpit door of a plane approaching San Francisco.
  • On February 21, 2012, passengers aboard a Continental Airlines flight from Portland to Houston rushed to aid a flight attendant subdue a Middle Eastern man who began shouting, “Allah is great!”
  • On March 27, 2012, a JetBlue flight from new York to Las Vegas was forced to land in Texas after the pilot started shouting about bombs and al-Qaeda and had to be subdued by passengers.
  • On January 9, 2013, passengers on board an international flight from Reykjavik to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport subdued an unruly passenger by tying him to his seat with duct tape and zip ties after he began screaming and hitting other passengers.
  • On May 27, 2013, a passenger aboard an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage to Portland, Oregon, tried to open an airplane door in-flight and was subdued by passengers and crew members until the plane landed in Portland.

In every one of these incidents, it’s been passengers–not the vaunted Air Marshals–who have been the first and major line of defense against mentally unstable or terroristically inclined passengers.

In opposing TSA’s proposal to loosen security restrictions, skeptical lawmakers, airlines, labor unions and law enforcement groups argued that knives and other items could be used to injure or kill passengers and crew.

Such weapons would have increased the dangers posed by the above-cited passengers (and a pilot) who erupted in frightening behavior.

Prior to 9/11, commercial airline pilots and passengers were warned: If someone tries to highjack the plane, just stay calm and do what he says.

So many airplanes were directed by highjackers to land in Fidel Castro’s Cuba that these incidents became joke fodder for stand-up comedians.

And, up to 9/11, the advice to cooperate fully with highjackers and land the planes where they wanted worked.  No planes and no lives were lost.

But during 9/11, passengers and crew–with one exception–cooperated fully with the highjackers’ demands.

And all of them died horiffically when three of those jetliners were deliberately crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

World Trade Center under airplane attack

Only on United Flight 93 did the passengers and crew fight back. In doing so, they accomplished what security guards, soldiers, military pilots, the CIA and FBI could not.

They thwarted the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives and preventing the fourth plane from destroying the White House or the Capital Building.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

Since every airline passenger must now become his or her own Air Marshal, it seems only appropriate that the criminals they face be rendered as harmless as possible.

“A TEAM PLAYER”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 9, 2014 at 12:01 am

In 1959,, J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI, declared war on the Mafia.

He set up a Top Hoodlum Program and encouraged his agents to use wiretapping and electronic surveillance (“bugging”) to make up for lost time and Intelligence.

But Hoover also imposed a series of restrictions that could destroy an agent’s professional and personal life.

William E. Roemer, Jr., assigned to the FBI’s Chicago field office, was one of the first agents to volunteer for such duty.

In his memoirs, Man Against the Mob, published in 1989, Roemer laid out the dangers that went with such work:

  1. If confronted by police or mobsters, agents were to try to escape without being identified.
  2. If caught by police, agents were not to identify themselves as FBI employees.
  3. They were to carry no badges, credentials or guns–or anything else connecting themselves with the FBI.
  4. If they were arrested by police and the truth emerged about their FBI employment, the Bureau would claim they were “rogue agents” acting on their own.
  5. Such agents were not to refute the FBI’s portrayal of them as “rogues.”

If he had been arrested by the Chicago Police Department and identified as an FBI agent, Roemer would have:

  1. Definitely been fired from his position as an FBI agent.
  2. Almost certainly been convicted for at least breaking and entering.
  3. Disbarred from the legal profession (Roemer was an attorney).
  4. Perhaps served a prison sentence.
  5. Been disgraced as a convicted felon.
  6. Been unable to serve in his chosen profession of law enforcement.

Given the huge risks involved, many agents, unsurprisingly, wanted nothing to do with “black bag jobs.”

The agents who took them on were so committed to penetrating the Mob that they willingly accepted Hoover’s dictates.

In 1989, Roemer speculated that former Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North had fallen victim to such a “Mission: Impossible” scenario: “The secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions….”

In 1986, Ronald Reagan’s “arms-for-hostages” deal known as Iran-Contra had been exposed.

To retrieve seven Americans taken hostage in Beirut, Lebanon, Reagan had secretly agreed to sell some of America’s most sophisticated missiles to Iran.

During this operation, several Reagan officials–including North–diverted proceeds from the sale of those missiles to fund Reagan’s illegal war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

In Roemer’s view: North had followed orders from his superiors without question.  But when the time came for those superiors to step forward and protect him, they didn’t.

They let him take the fall.

Roemer speculated that North had been led to believe he would be rescued from criminal prosecution.  Instead, in 1989, he was convicted for

  • accepting an illegal gratuity;
  • aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry; and
  • ordering the destruction of documents via his secretary, Fawn Hall.

That is how many employers expect their employees to act: To carry out whatever assignments they are given and take the blame if anything goes wrong.

Take the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the world’s biggest retailer.

In March, 2005, Wal-Mart escaped criminal charges when it agreed to pay $11 million to end a federal probe into its use of illegal aliens as janitors.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided 60 Wal-Mart stores across 21 states in October, 2003.  The raids led to the arrest of 245 illegal aliens.

Federal authorities had uncovered the cases of an estimated 345 illegal aliens contracted as janitors at Wal-Mart stores.

Many of the workers worked seven days or nights a week without overtime pay or injury compensation. Those who worked nights were often locked in the store until the morning.

According to Federal officials, court-authorized wiretaps revealed that Wal-Mart executives knew their subcontractors hired illegal aliens.

Once the raids began, Federal agents invaded the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., seizing boxes of records from the office of a mid-level executive.

Click here: Wal-Mart Settles Illegal Immigrant Case for $11M | Fox News

Of course, Wal-Mart admitted no wrongdoing in the case.  Instead, it blamed its subcontractors for hiring illegal aliens and claiming that Wal-Mart hadn’t been aware of this.

Which, of course, is nonsense.

Just as the FBI would have had no compunctions about letting its agents take the fall for following orders right from the pen of J. Edgar Hoover, Wal-Mart meant to sacrifice its subcontractors for doing precisely what the company’s executives wanted them to do.

The only reason Wal-Mart couldn’t make this work: The Feds had, for once, treated corporate executives like Mafia leaders and had tapped their phones.

Click here: Wal-Mart to review workers – Business – EVTNow

Which holds a lesson for how Federal law enforcement agencies should treat future corporate executives when their companies are found violating the law.

Instead of seeing CEOs as “captains of industry,” a far more realistic approach would be giving this term a new meaning: Corrupt Egotistical Oligarchs.

A smart investigator/prosecutor should always remember:

Widespread illegal and corrupt behavior cannot happen among the employees of a major government agency or private corporation unless:

  1. Those at the top have ordered it and are profiting from it; or
  2. Those at the top don’t want to know about it and have taken no steps to prevent or punish it.

“A TEAM PLAYER”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2014 at 12:15 am

Recruiters for corporate America routinely claim they’re looking for “a team player.”

This sounds great–as though the corporation is seeking people who will get along with their colleagues and work to achieve a worthwhile objective.

And, at times, that is precisely what is being sought in a potential employee.

But, altogether too often, what the corporation means by “a team player” is what the Mafia means by “a real standup guy.”

That is: Someone willing to commit any crime for the organization–and take the fall for its leaders if anything goes wrong.

Consider this classic example from the files of America’s premier law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

On November 14, 1957, 70 top Mafia leaders from across the country gathered at the estate of a fellow gangster, Joseph Barbara, in Apalachin, a small village in upstate New York.

The presence of so many cars with out-of-state license plates converging on an isolated mansion caught the attention of Edgar Crosswell, a sergeant in the New York State Police.

Crosswell assembled as many troopers as he could find, set up roadblocks, and swooped down on the estate.

The mobsters, panicked, fled in all directions–many of them into the surrounding woods.  Even so, more than 60 underworld bosses were arrested and indicted following the raid.

Perhaps the most significant result of the raid was the effect it had on J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI.

J. Edgar Hoover

Up to that point, Hoover had vigorously and vocally denied the existence of a nationwide Mafia.  He had been happy to leave pursuit of international narcotics traffickers to his hated rival, Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).

But he had been careful to keep his own agency well out of the war on organized crime.

Several theories have been advanced as to why.

  1. Hoover feared that his agents–long renowned for their incorruptibility–would fall prey to the bribes  of well-heeled mobsters.
  2. Hoover feared that his allegedly homosexual relationship with his longtime associate director, Clyde Tolson, would be exposed by the Mob.  Rumors still persist that mobster Meyer Lansky came into possession of a compromising photo of Hoover and Tolson engaged in flagrante delicto.
  3. Hoover knew of the ties between moneyed mobsters and their political allies in Congress.  Hoover feared losing the goodwill of Congress for future–and ever-larger–appropriations for the FBI.
  4. Hoover preferred flashy, easily-solved cases to those requiring huge investments of manpower and money.

Whatever the reason, Hoover had, from the time he assumed directorship of the FBI in 1924, kept his agents far from the frontlines of the war against organized crime.

Suddenly, however, that was no longer possible.

The arrests of more than 60 known members of the underworld–in what the news media called “a conclave of crime”–deeply embarrassed Hoover.

It was all the more embarrassing that while the FBI had virtually nothing in its files on the leading lights of the Mafia, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had opened its voluminous files to the Senate Labor Rackets Committee.

Heading that committee as chief legal counsel was Robert F. Kennedy–a fierce opponent of organized crime who, in 1961, would become Attorney General of the United States.

So Hoover created the Top Hoodlum Program (THP) to identify and target selected Mafiosi across the country.

Since the FBI had no networks of informants operating within the Mafia, Hoover fell back on a technique that had worked wonders against the Communist Party U.S.A.

He would wiretap the mobsters’ phones and plant electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their meeting places.

The information gained from these techniques would arm the Bureau with evidence that could be used to strongarm mobsters into “rolling over” on their colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Hoover believed he had authority to install wiretaps because more than one Attorney General had authorized their use.

But no Attorney General had given permission to install bugs–which involved breaking into the places where they were to be placed.  Such assignments were referred to within the Bureau as “black bag jobs.”

So, in making clear to his agent-force that he wanted an unprecedented war against organized crime, Hoover also made clear the following:

Before agents could install electronic surveillance (an ELSUR, in FBI-speak) devices in Mob hangouts, agents had to first request authority for a survey.  This would have to establish:

  1. That this was truly a strategic location;
  2. That the agents had a plan of attack that the Bureau could see was logical and potentially successful; and, most importantly of all
  3. That it could be done without any “embarrassment to the Bureau.”

According to former FBI agent William E. Roemer, Jr., who carried out many of these “black bag” assignments:

“The [last requirement] was always Mr. Hoover’s greatest concern: ‘Do the job, by God, but don’t ever let anything happen that might embarrass the Bureau.”

THE FIRST RULE OF BUREAUCRACIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 3, 2014 at 12:09 am

After spending years of his life sexually abusing boys entrusted into his care, Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life as a prison inmate.

On October 9, 2012, a Pennsylvania judge sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach  to at least 30 years in prison.  And he may spend as many as 60 years behind bars.

Following his conviction on June 22, 2012, he had faced a maximum of 400 years’ imprisonment for his sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Jerry Sandusky (middle) in police custody

After the sentencing decision was announced, Penn State University President Rodney Erickson released a statement:

“Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse.

“While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”

No doubt Erickson–and the rest of Penn State–wants to move on from this shameful page in the university’s history.  And the university has desperately tried to sweep the sordid scandal out of sight of the ticket-paying public–and of history:

  • It fired Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach who had led Penn State to a staggering 112 victories.
  • It ousted Graham Spanier, the university’s longtime president.
  • And it removed the iconic statue of Paterno–long held in worshipful esteem by almost everyone at the football-obsessed institution.

So what remains to be learned from this sordid affair?

A great deal, it turns out.

To begin at the beginning:

In 2002, assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant, walked in on Sandusky anally raping a 10-year-old boy.  The next day, McQueary reported the incident to head coach Paterno.

“You did what you had to do,” said Paterno.  “It is my job now to figure out what we want to do.”

Paterno’s idea of “what we want to do” consisted of reporting the incident to three other top Penn State officials:

Their idea of “what we want to do” was to close ranks around Sandusky and engage in a diabolical “code of silence.”

As former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh summed up in an internal investigative report compiled at the request of Penn State and released on July 12:

“Four of the most powerful people at the Pennsylvania State University–President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno–failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.

“These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the board of trustees, the university community and authorities.

Louis Freeh

Louis J. Freeh

“They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.

“… In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University….repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.

“The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only, cause for this failure to protect child victims and report to authorities.”

If there is a fundamental truth to be learned from this sordid affair, it is this: The first rule of any and every bureaucracy is:

ABOVE ALL ELSE, THE INSTITUTION MUST BE PROTECTED.

And this holds true:

  • At the level of local / state / Federal government;
  • For-profit organizations;
  • Non-profit organizations; or
  • Religious institutions

During the 48-year reign of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agents had their own version of this: Do not embarrass the Bureau.

Thus we have seen countless Catholic priests abusing young boys entrusted to their protection–only to be repeatedly protected by high-ranking authorities within the Catholic Church.

We have seen whistleblowers who report rampant safety violations in nuclear power plants ignored by the very regulatory agencies the public counts on to prevent catastrophic accidents.

Imperfect institutions staffed by perfect men obsessed with power, money and fame–and fearful of losing one or all of these–can never be expected to act otherwise.

And those who do expect ordinary mortals to behave like extraordinary saints will be forever disappointed.

So how can we at least minimize such outrages in the future?

“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom,” warned Thomas Jefferson.  And it remains as true today as it did more than 200 years ago.

Add to this the more recent adage: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

The more we know about how our institutions actually work–as opposed to how they want us to believe they work–the more chance we have to control their behavior.  And to check their abuses when they occur.

Which they will.

AVOIDING THE BUMS’ RUSH

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 24, 2014 at 12:37 am

Almost one year ago–on May 24, 2013–Californians dodged a bum’s rush.

That was when the California Legislature refused to make the streets safe for DDMBs.

Or Druggies, Drunks, Mentals and Bums, as they’re known to many of the paramedics and police who must deal with them.

Or as “the homeless,” to those of Politically Correct persuasion.

A measure introduced in April, 2013, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) would have legally allowed DDMBs to sleep and sit in public places and accost hard-working citizens for unearned money.

The bill had already passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a 7-2 vote, but fatally stalled in the Assembly Apporpriations Committee on May 24, 2013.

Titled ”The Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act,” it was first introduced on December 5, 2012.

Among the “rights” the bill would have created

  • “The right to rest in a public space in the same manner as any other person without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel….because he or she is homeless, as long as that rest does not maliciously or substantially obstruct a passageway.”
  • “The right to decline admittance to a public or private shelter or any other accommodation, including social services programs, for any reason he or she sees fit, without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest from law enforcement, public or private security personnel….”
  • “The right to assistance of counsel if a county chooses to initiate judicial proceedings under any law set forth in Section 53.5….  The county where the citation was issued shall pay the cost of providing counsel….”

  • Every local government and disadvantaged unincorporated community within the state shall have sufficient health and hygiene centers available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for use by homeless people. These facilities may be part of the Neighborhood Health Center Program.”
  • “The right to solicit donations in public spaces in the same manner as any other person without being subject to criminal or civil sanctions, harassment, or arrest by law enforcement, public or private security personnel…because he or she is homeless.”
  • “‘Harassment’ [of DDMBs] means a knowing and willful course of conduct by law enforcement, public or private security personnel…directed at a specific person that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing a person.”

“Seriously alarming” and “seriously annoying” behavior by DDMBs–such as aggressively demanding money from passersby–would, of course, not have been considered illegal.

The bill further stated: “Any person whose rights have been violated under this part may enforce those rights in a civil action.

“The court may award appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief, restitution for loss of property or personal effects and belongings, actual damages, compensatory damages, exemplary damages, statutory damages of one thousand dollars ($1,000) per violation, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs to a prevailing plaintiff.”

In short, the aim of the bill was three-fold:

  1. To arm society’s undesirables with the full force of law to demand unearned monies from those who actually work for a living;
  2. To arm them with the right to infest, with their psychotic behavior, drug/alcohol addiction and often disease-carrying belongings, any public place they choose; and
  3. To put hard-working, law-abiding “squares” on the defensive in protecting themselves against the filth, aggressiveness and risk of injury from such DDMBs.

In recent years, several cities concerned about the number of undesirables occupying public spaces have passed local ordinances banning them from sitting and lying on streets and sidewalks.

These include Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Palo Alto and San Francisco (where it is unenforced).

Ammiano’s bill would have forbidden police from enforcing ordinances regarding resting in public places unless a county has provided sufficient support to such undesirables.

The legislation received little attention from the media.

To fully understand what passage of such legislation would have meant for California, it’s necessary only to look at Ammiano’s own city, San Francisco.

This city:

  • Doles out cash payments to virtually anyone with no residency requirement.
  • Spends $200 million a year on “honeless” services.
  • Has a “homeless” population between 7,000 and 10,000.
  • Of these, 3,000 to 5,000 refuse shelter.

But the true realities of this problem can only be seen at the street level.

One of these realities is Suzie Wong, 66, who goes by the name Ling Ling.  A resident of the Nob Hill District, Wong daily alights from the 27 Bryant bus from the Mission and halts at the nearby bus stop.

There she drops her drawers to leave a yellow or brown deposit on the sidewalk, then heads to her usual spot to panhandle.

Residents have lodged scores of complaints with the city about Wong’s repeated defecations.  The Department of Public Works sent crews to clean up her messes at least 44 times in a six-month period.

Police have repeatedly arrested Wong for a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold at San Francisco General Hospital.  But doctors usually release her before the cops even get back to the station.

Ammiano’s legislation would have legalized such behavior throughout California.

So the upcoming anniversary of its defeat is well worth celebrating.

WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR PISTORIUS–AND SOUTH AFRICA

In Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on March 6, 2014 at 12:25 am

He’s the O.J. Simpson of South Africa–a gifted athlete charged with cold-blooded murder.

For Oscar Pistorius, life began as a struggle, on November 22, 1986.  Born with fibular hemimelia (congenital absence of the fibula) in both legs, at 11 months old, he was forced to undergo the amputation of both legs below the knee.

But still he persisted to lead an active–even an extraordinary–life.  As a child and teenager, he played rugby union, water polo and tennis, and took part in Olympic wrestling.

After a serious rugby knee injury, Pistorius was introduced to running in January, 2004, while undergoing rehabilitation at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre.

Fitted with racing blades, he has been dubbed “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man with no legs.”   He took part in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and came in third in the 100-metere event.

In summer, 2012, he became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, winning  gold medals in the men’s 400-metre race and the 4 X 100 metres relay.

Oscar Pistorius

And then, having achieved so much against so much adversity, he found himself facing trial for a ghastly crime:

The February 14, 2013 murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend, model and paralegal Reeva Steenkamp, whom he shot three times through a locked bathroom door.

Reeva Steenkamp

Pistorius claims he thought Steenkamp was a nighttime intruder. The state alleges that he and his girlfriend  argued before her death and he intentionally killed her.

His trial opened on March 3 in Pretoria, South Africa.  A conviction on the murder charge in South Africa would carry a mandatory life sentence.

Throughout South Africa, women believe the odds are high that Pistorius will escape justice for murder owing to his sports celebrity status.  And they may well turn out to be right.

Consider:

  • According to one study, South Africa has “the highest rate [of violence against women] ever reported in research anywhere in the world.”
  • Statistically, a woman gets raped in South Africa every four minutes. Only 66,196 incidents were reported to police in 2012 and their investigations led to only 4,500 convictions.
  • The murder of Pistorius’ girlfriend happened one day before she planned to wear black in a “Black Friday” protest against the country’s disgracefully high number of rapes.
  • “If data for all violent assaults, rapes and other sexual assaults against women are taken into account, then approximately 200,000 adult women are reported as being attacked in South Africa every year,” said Lerato Moloi of the South African Institute for Race Relations.
  • The real figure is considerably higher, she said, since most cases never are reported.

The rate of murders of women in South Africa is equally appalling:

  • A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa.
  • No perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings, according to a study published by the South African Medical Research Council.
  • That is double the rate of such murders in the United States.

In assessing what’s at stake in the Pistorius trial, Niccolo Machiavelli sounds a warning:

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Discourses, his seminal work on how to preserve freedom within a republic, Machiavelli warns: “Well-ordered republics establish punishments and rewards for their citizens, but never set off one against the other.”

The soldier, Horatious, he writes, had saved ancient Rome from the Curatti.  But when he murdered his sister, he was put on trial for his life.

While Rome might seem guilty of ingratitude, writes Machiavelli, “the people were to blame rather for the acquittal of Horatius than for having him tried.

“And the reason for this is, that no well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits….

“Having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for good conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits.”

A state that adheres to this principle will retain its liberty; a state that doesn’t will quickly be destroyed.

For if a citizen who has rendered eminent service to the nation becomes convinced that he can commit any wrong without fear of punishment, “he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law,” writes Machiavelli.

Americans learned the truth of this after the 1995 acquittal of O.J. Simpson for the slasher-murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and a waiter-eyewitness, Ronald Goldman.

In September, 2007, he led a group of men into a hotel room at the Palace Station casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and, at gunpoint, seized sports memorabilia which he claimed had been stolen from him.

He was arrested and eventually convicted for criminal conspiracy, armed robbery, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

On December 5, 2008, Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison with the chance of parole in  nine years, in 2017.

MEXICO: WHERE CORRUPTION IS KING

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2014 at 12:00 am

The photo says it all.

Taken on February 22, it shows Joaquin Guzman, the widely-feared kingpin of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, in the custody of Mexican Marines.

The Marines had launched a surprise, early-morning raid on the condominium where he was staying in Mazatlan, Sinaloa.

Taken without a shot being fired, Guzman was paraded before photographers.  Yet, even with his hands cuffed behind his back, the fear generated by his name was such that all the Marines in the photo wore black masks over their faces.

His nickname might be “El Chapo”, or “Shorty,” owing to his 5’6″ height.  But there is nothing aborted about the extent of his power.

Guzman became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival, Osiel Cardenas, head of the Gulf Cartel.  Since then, he has been considered the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world” by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

High-ranking officials in the U.S. Department of Justice hailed the arrest and announced they would seek Guzman’s extradition to the United States for trial.

There were two solid reasons for doing this:

  1. Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Columbia through Mexico to the United States–the world’s top consumer.
  2. Arrested in 1993 and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, Guzman lived like a king in prison–until he bribed his guards to smuggle him out in a laundry cart.  In Mexico, such treatment for drug kingpins is typical.

But even if Guzman spends the rest of his life in prison, his drug empire will go profitably rolling on.

Anyone who doubts this need only read Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields.

Written by Investigative Reporter Charles Bowden and published in 2010, Murder City offers a terrifying, and almost lethally depressing, portrait 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.

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

WHY SO MANY PEOPLE DISTRUST GOVERNMENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm

In 2005, Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian architect, was placed on the United States Government’s No-Fly list, operated by the Terrorist Screening Center.

It wasn’t because she was a member of Al Qaeda.  It happened because of an FBI screw-up.

The mess started in January 2005, when Ibrahim and her 14-year-old daughter arrived at the San Francisco Airport.  Their destination: Hawaii, to attend a conference trip sponsored by Stanford.

Ibrahim, still recovering from a recent hysterectomy, was in a wheelchair.

When she approached the United Airlines counter to check in, she was seized, handcuffed, thrown in the back of a police car and taken to a holding cell.

There she was interrogated.  During this, paramedics had to be summoned because she hadn’t taken her surgery medication.

Then, to her surprise, she was released–and told that her name had been removed from the No-Fly list.  She boarded a flight to Hawaii and attended the conference.

But in March 2005, the situation suddenly changed.

Having returned to Malasia, she bought a ticket to fly back to California to meet with her Stanford thesis adviser. But at the airport, she was banned from the flight.

She was told that her student visa had been revoked, and that she would longer be let into the United States.  When she asked why, authorities refused to give a reason.

She would not learn the answer for another eight years.

An FBI agent in San Jose, California, had conducted a background check on Ibrahim.  He hadn’t meant to place her on theNo-Fly list.

FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

He had simply checked the wrong boxes on a form.  He didn’t even realize the mistake until nearly a decade later, during his deposition in 2013.

In fact, he filled out the form exactly the opposite way from the instructions provided on the form. He did so even though the form stated, “It is recommended that the subject NOT be entered into the following selected terrorist screening databases.”

Thus, Ibrahim was placed on the No-Fly list.

That was bad enough–but at least understandable. FBI agents are human, and can and do err like anyone else.

What is not understandable or tolerable is this:

After Ibrahim filed a lawsuit against the United States Government in 2006, the Justice Department ordered a coverup–to prevent word from leaking that one of its agents had made a mistake.

Moreover, Ibrahim was ordered by the Justice Department to not divulge to anyone that she was suing the United States Government–or the reason for the lawsuit.

Ibrahim is currently the dean of architecture at University Putra Malaysia.

Because the Justice Department refused to admit its mistake, attorneys working pro bono for Ibrahim incurred a reported $3.8 million in legal fees, as well as $300,000 in litigation costs.

In his recent decision on the case, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, based in San Francisco, called the agent’s error “conceded, proven, undeniable and serious.

Once derogatory information is posted to the Terrorist  Screening Database, it can propagate extensively through the  government’s interlocking complex of databases, like a bad credit  report that will never go away,” he wrote.

If only the Justice Department had readily admitted the mistake and quickly moved to correct it.  But the egos of Federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors effectively ruled out this option.

Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (2006-2011) had a completely different approach to dealing with mistakes.

In his new autobiography, Duty, he writes of his determination to promote good relations between the Pentagon and the reporters who covered it.

In his commencement address at the Anapolis Naval Academy on May 25, 2007, he said:

“…the press, in my view [is] a critically important guarantor of our freedom.

“When it identifies a problem, the response of senior leaders should be to find out if the allegations are true.  And if so, say so, and then act to remedy the problem.

“If [the allegations are] untrue, then be able to document that fact.”

Millions of Americans not only distrust the Federal Government–they believe it is aggressively conspiring against them.

But the vast majority of Federal employees do not come to work intent on destroying the lives of their fellow Americans.

They spend most of their time carrying out routine, often mind-numbing tasks–such as filling out what seem like an endless series of forms.

But even where no malice is involved, their actions can have devastating consequences for innocent men and women.

Especially in cases where “national security” can be invoked to hide error, stupidity, or even criminality.

The refusal of the Justice Department to quickly admit the honest mistake of one of its agents prevented Ibrahim from boarding a commercial flight for seven years.

Federal agencies should follow the advice given by Robert Gates:  Admit your mistakes and act quickly to correct them. 

Unless this happens, the poisonous atmosphere of distrust between the Government and its citizens will only worsen.

WHO’S THE VICTIM?

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on February 4, 2014 at 11:35 am

Joy Stewart, 22, was nearly eight months pregnant when she encountered Dennis McGuire in Preble County, Ohio, while visiting a friend.

McGuire wanted to have sex with her but Stewart refused.

Dennis McGuire

So he raped her.

No, not vaginally.  She was so pregnant he couldn’t have sex with her.

So he anally sodamized her.  With a knife.

Not surprisingly, Stewart became hysterical.  And this made him fear that he would go to jail for raping a pregnant woman.

So he choked her.  Then he stabbed her with the same knife he had used to anally rape her.

Finally, he severed her carotid artery and jugular vein. He wiped blood off his hands on her right arm and dumped her in a wooded area where she was found the next day by hikers.

Joy Stewart

The date was February 11, 1989.

When questioned by police, McGuire blamed Stewart’s kidnapping and murder on his brother-in-law.  But the accusation didn’t hold up–and DNA evidence clearly implicated McGuire.

McGuire was convicted of kidnapping, anal rape and aggravated murder on December 8, 1994.  But even while facing a grim future, McGuire managed to postpone his fate as victim could not.

First, his attorneys appealed his conviction to the Ohio Supreme Court on June 10, 1997.  To the dismay of him and his mouthpieces, the court upheld the verdict on December 10, 1997.

By this time, McGuire had already outlived his ravished victim by eight years.

Second, his attorneys appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, for the Sixth Circuit.  During this appeal, as in the first, McGuire’s attorneys didn’t argue their client was innocent.

They simply claimed that a jury never got to hear the full details of his chaotic and abusive childhood.

As if that had been so much more horrific than the details of Joy Stewart’s rape and murder.

The case was argued on December 16, 2013, and decided on December 30.  The court upheld the death penalty verdict.

By that time, McGuire had outlived Joy Stewart by 24 years.

But McGuire’s lawyers weren’t through.

Third, they asked Ohio Governor John Kasich to spare McGuire, again citing his chaotic and abusive childhood.

Kasich rejected that request without comment.

Fourth, on January 6-7, 2014, McGuire’s lawyers argued in Federal appeals court that Ohio’s untried two-drug execution method would cause their client “agony and terror” as he struggled to breathe.

Supplies of Ohio’s former execution drug, pentobarbital, had dried up as its manufacturer put it off limits for executions.

Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction planned to use a dose of midazolam, a sedative, combined with hydromorphone, a painkiller, to put McGuire to death.

That appeal proved unsuccessful.

Finally, on January 16, 2014, McGuire kept his long-delayed date with the executioner in a small, windowless room at the Lucasville Correctional facility.

Strapped to a gurney, McGuire gasped, snorted and snored as it took him 26 minutes to die.

“I’m going to heaven,” were his last words.

His surviving family members, of course, feel that a travesty of justice has occurred.

On January 25, they filed a lawsuit in Federal court, claiming that McGuire’s execution was “unconstitutional.”

According to the lawsuit, McGuire suffered  “repeated cycles of snorting, gurgling and arching his back, appearing to writhe in pain.  It looked and sounded as though he was suffocating.”

The McGuire family wants to ensure that such an execution never happens again.

During the execution, his adult children sobbed in dismay.

For him.  Not his ravaged and innocent victim.

The old saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied” remains as true–and relevant–as ever.

In order to be effective, punishment must be certain and swift.  To repeatedly postpone it–literally for decades after the perpetrator has been convicted–is to inflict further agony on the victim.

Or, in this case, the surviving family and friends of the murdered victim.

And it sends an unmistakable message to those thinking of victimizing others: “Hey, he got to live another 25 years.  Maybe I can beat the rap.”

Opponents of capital punishment have long argued that the death penalty is not a deterrant to crime.

In fact, it is.

Having finally had sentence carried out on him, Dennis McGuire will never again threaten the life of anyone.

Prisons scheduled for executions are now facing a chronic shortage of the drugs used to carry out such sentence.  The reason: Many drug-makers refuse to make them available for executions.

This has caused some states to reconsider using execution methods that were scrapped in favor of lethal injection.

Methods like

  • hanging
  • the gas chamber
  • the electric chair
  • even the firing squad.

In line with this debate should be another: Whether the lives of cold-blooded murderers are truly worth more than those of their innocent victims.

And whether those victims–and those who loved them–deserve a better break than they now receive under our legal system.

ILLEGALS CAN NOW BE LAWYERS IN CALIFORNIA

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on January 2, 2014 at 4:32 pm

The California Supreme Court has granted a law license to a man illegally living in the United States.

The January 2 decision allows Sergio Garcia to begin practicing law even though his mere presence is a blatant violation of American immigration laws.

Garcia arrived in the U.S. illegally in 1994 to pick almonds with his father and worked at a grocery store and in the fields while attending school.

He graduated from Cal Northern School of Law in 2009 and passed the bar exam.

Garcia is not a citizen, nor even a legal resident.

But that didn’t stop him from challenging a 1996 Federal law that forbids state agencies to extend public benefits–including professional licenses–to those who are illegally in the country.

The headline for this story in the liberal Huffington Post read: “California Supreme Court Grants Law License to Undocumented Immigrant Sergio Garcia.”

The headline could just have accurately read: “California Supreme Court Allows Illegal Alien to Legally Practice Law.”

But “illegal alien” is–for all its accuracy–Politically Incorrect.  Instead, those who defend the wanton violating of American immigration laws prefer the term “undocumented immigrant.”

As though at one time these lawbreakers had valid citizenship documents but somehow lost them during their swim across the Rio Grande.

Of course, Mexican politicians are quick to accuse Americans of racism if they dare to enforce their own immigration laws.

Consider the lecture that Mexican President Felipe Calderon gave a joint session of Congress on May 20, 2010.

Calderon attacked the Arizona law that allows law enforcement officials to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

Felipe Calderon

According to Calderon, the law “introduces a terrible idea: using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement.”

In his lecture, Calderon condemned the United States for doing what Mexico itself has long done: Strictly enforcing control of its borders.

The hypocrisy of Calderon’s words is staggering.

From a purely political viewpoint, it’s makes sense that Calderon didn’t say anything about this. From a viewpoint of fairness and common sense, his refusal to do so smacks of the vilest hypocrisy.

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • in the country legally;
  • have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • not destined to be burdens on society;
  • of economic and social benefit to society;
  • of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under ralse pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned are deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

Calderon also ignored a second well-understood but equally unacknowledged truth: Mexico uses its American border to rid itself of those who might otherwise demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

The Mexican Government still remembers the bloody upheaval known as the Mexican Revolution. This lasted ten years (1910-1920) and wiped out an estimated one to two million men, women and children.

Massacres were common on all sides, with men shot by the hundreds in bullrings or hung by the dozen on trees.

A Mexican Revolution firing squad

All of the major leaders of the Revolution–Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Alvaro Obregon–died in a hail of bullets.

Francisco “Pancho” Villa

Emiliano Zapata

As a result, every successive Mexican Government has lived in the shadow of another such wholesale bloodletting. These officials have thus quietly decided to turn the United States border into a safety valve.

If potential revolutionaries leave Mexico to find a better life in the United States, the Government doesn’t have to fear the rise of another “Pancho” Villa.

If somehow the United States managed to seal its southern border, all those teeming millions of “undocumented workers” who just happened to lack any documents would have to stay in “Mexico lindo.”

They would be forced to live with the rampant corruption and poverty that have forever characterized this failed nation-state. Or they would have to demand substantial reforms.

There is no guarantee that such demands would not lead to a second–and equally bloody–Mexican revolution.

So Felipe Calderon and his successors in power find it easier–and safer–to turn the United States into a dumping ground for the Mexican citizens that the Mexican Government itself doesn’t want.

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