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“SCARFACE” REVISITED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TONY: You gonna raise…

BANKER: I gotta do it.

BANKER: The IRS is coming…

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

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

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

Tony Montana’s personal banker gives him some bad news

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

BANKER:  There’s no place else to go.

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

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

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

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

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

Now, fast forward to 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

GREED-TESTING FOR CEOs

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2015 at 12:01 am

Robert Benmosche, the CEO of American International Group (AIG) had some blunt advice to college graduates searching for work in a tight job market.

Robert Benmosche

“You have to accept the hand that’s been dealt you in life,” Benmosche said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “Don’t cry about it. Deal with it.”

Typical advice from a one-percenter whose company, AIG, suffered a liquidity crisis when its credit ratings were downgraded below “AA” levels in September, 2008.

And how did AIG “deal with” its own crisis?  It went crying to its Uncle Sugar, the United States Government, for a bailout.

Which it promptly got.

The United States Federal Reserve Bank, on September 16, 2008, made an $85 billion loan to the company to meet increased collateral obligations resulting from its credit rating downgrade–and thus saving it from certain bankruptcy.

In return, the Government took an 80% stake in the firm.

(The bailout eventually ballooned to $182 billion in exchange for a 92%  stake.)

College graduates, said Benmosche, needed to seize the opportunities that become available to them, even if their options are limited.

“They want me to talk to the students and give them a sense of encouragement, especially with the high unemployment,” said Benmosche.

“My advice will be, ‘Whatever opportunity comes your way, take it. Take it and treat it as if it’s the only one that’s coming your way, because that actually may be the truth.’”

Of course, willing-to-work college graduates who can’t find willing-to-hire employers won’t be able to count on a generous bailout from the Federal Government.

To which most of them will owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans.

It’s long past time to apply to “untouchable” CEOs like Robert Benmosche the same criteria that right-wing Republicans demand be applied to welfare recipients.

Throughout the past year Republican lawmakers have pursued welfare drug-testing in Congress and more than 30 states.

Some bills have even targeted people who claim unemployment insurance and food stamps, despite scanty evidence the poor and jobless are disproportionately on drugs.

The concept of background screening is actually sound. But Republicans are aiming it at the wrong end of the economic spectrum.

Since 2008, the government has handed out billions of dollars in bailouts to the wealthiest corporations in the country.

The reason: To rescue the economy from the calamity produced by the criminal greed and recklessness of those same corporations.

For example:

  • The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has invested $118.5 billion in restoring liquidity to the financial markets.
  • Federal Reserve rescue efforts: $1.5 trillion invested.
  • Federal stimulus programs designed to save or create jobs and jumpstart the economy from recession. $577.8 billion invested.
  • American International Group: Multifaceted bailout to help insurers through restructuring, minimize the need to post collateral and get rid of toxic assets. $127.4 billion invested.
  • FDIC bank takeovers: Cost to FDIC fund that insures losses depositors suffer when a bank fails. $45.4 billion invested.
  • Other financial initiatives designed to rescue the financial sector. $366.4 billion invested.
  • Other housing initiatives designed to rescue the housing market and prevent foreclosures. $130.6 billion invested.

Total of federal monies invested: $3 trillion.

It’s important to note that these figures–supplied by the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Congressional Budget Ooffice and the White House–date from November 16, 2009.

And it’s equally important to remember that welfare recipients did not

  • hold CEO positions at any of the banks so far bailed out;
  • run such insurance companies as American International Group (AIG);
  • administer the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, known as Freddie Mac;
  • command the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as Fannie Mae.

The 2010 documentary Inside Job chronicles the events leading to the 2008 global financial crisis. One of its most insightful moments occurs at a party held by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

“We can’t control our greed,” the CEO of a large bank admits to his fellow guests.  “You should regulate us more.”

Greed is defined as an excessive desire for wealth or goods. At its worst, greed trumps rationality, judgment and concern about the damage it may cause.

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

Cocaine, for example, directly increases dopamine levels. So does money.

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

Dopamine is most reliably activated by an experience we haven’t had before. We crave recreating that experience.

But snorting the same amount of cocaine, or earning the same sum of money, does not cause dopamine levels to increase. So the pleasure-seeker must increase the amount of stimuli to keep enjoying the euphoria.

In time, this incessant craving for pleasure becomes an addiction. And feeding that addiction–-with ever more money–becomes the overriding goal.

Thus, the infamous line–”Greed is good”–in the 1987 film, Wall Street, turns out to be both false and deadly for all concerned.

CENSORSHIP: THE AMERICAN WAY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Midway through Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 Vietnam epic, Full Metal Jacket, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

The correspondents are discussing how best to portray America’s faltering efforts to win a war that most of the “grunts” have come to see as unwinnable.

Lieutenant Lockhart, who’s presiding, wants his reporters to make some changes in the way they report the war.

LOCKHART: Chili, if we move Vietnamese, they are “evacuees.” If they come to us to be evacuated, they are “refugees.”

CHILI: I’ll make a note of it, sir.

LOCKHART (reading): “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

That’s good, Dave. But why say “North Vietnamese Army regular”? Is there an irregular?  How about “North Vietnamese Army soldier”?

DAVE:  I’ll fix it up, sir.

LOCKHART: “Search and destroy.” Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of “search and destroy,” substitute the phrase “sweep and clear.” Got it?

Lt. Lockhart (right) briefs his Marine reporters 

JOKER:  Got it. Very catchy.

LOCKHART: And, Joker–where’s the weenie?

JOKER:  Sir?

LOCKHART The Kill, Joker. The kill. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.

JOKER:  Didn’t see ’em.

LOCKHART Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here. Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–Winning of Hearts and Minds–okay?

And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?

JOKER:  It was raining, sir.

LOCKHART:  Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Which?

JOKER:  Whichever you say.

LOCKHART Grunts like reading about dead officers.

JOKER Okay, an officer. How about a general?

LOCKHART Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.

* * * * *

Kubrick’s film is set in the South Vietnam of 1968.

This was a war where military newspapers like Stars and Stripes offered a gung-ho, all-systems-go version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw the war for what it was and labeled it a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort.

Now, 47 years after the events depicted in Full Metal Jacket, the Obama administration wants to censor the American news media as the military censored its own.

The President wants the media to stop using footage from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during newscasts.

“We are urging broadcasters to avoid using the familiar B-roll that we’ve all seen before, file footage of ISIL convoys operating in broad daylight, moving in large formations with guns out, looking to wreak havoc,” Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for  the State Department, told Politico.

Stop using ISIL footage, Obama administration asks networks – Michael Crowley and Hadas Gold – POLITICO

The “B-roll” is stock footage that appears onscreen while reporters/commentators talk. It’s the stuff that keeps an audience watching the newscast, even if they ignore what’s being said.

“It’s inaccurate–that’s no longer how ISIL moves,” she added.

Since August, 2014, the United States and its allies have dropped thousands of bombs on ISIL–especially on its convoys–in Iraq and Syria.

As a result, claim U.S. officials, ISIL can no longer mass its forces in daylight–or move in large convoys.  Such large concentrations can be easily spotted–and attacked–from the air.

ISIL convoy

So how would the Pentagon like ISIL to be portrayed in file footage?

“One Toyota speeding down the road by itself at night with its headlights off,” said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.

Warren added that some of the B-roll the networks are using comes from propaganda videos made by ISIL.

Senior State Department and Pentagon officials have begun contacting television network reporters to suggest news sources switch to using more U.S.-friendly videos, such as Iraqi army soldiers being trained, or footage from coalition airstrikes.

When contacted by Politico for comment, ABC, CNN, Fox and NBC refused to comment.

Covering how Americans behave in war has proven a challenge for American news media since the Vietnam conflict.

In 1966, New York Times reporter Harrison E. Salisbury was allowed to enter North Vietnam to cover the war from their perspective.

His reports of heavy American bombing raids and their resulting civilian casualties and infrastructure damage provoked national controversy.

Officials of the Johnson administration charged Salisbury with “aiding and abetting the enemy” by reporting North Vietnamese claims of loss.

Salisbury–and the Times–replied that of course they were reporting what North Vietnamese officials were saying.  That was why he was there–to get the other side’s point-of-view.

So long as freedom of the press exists in reality as well as theory, there will always be tension between those who want to report the news–and those who want to censor it.

WHY COPS–WHITE AND BLACK–FEAR BLACKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The overall racial breakdown of the city was approximately:

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

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

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

That was 42 years ago.

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

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

Then follows this chart:

Misdeanor Criminal Mischief
Victim, Suspect, Arrestee Race/Ethnicity                                                                  

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

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

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

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

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

Total  Victims:        40,985       

Total Suspects:     11,356  

Total Arrests:         7,825

Then come the guts of the report:

Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter Victims:

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

Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter Arrestees:

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

Rape Victims:

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

Rape Arrestees:

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

Other Felony Sex Crimes Victims:

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

Known Other Felony Sex Crime Arrestees:

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

Robbery Victims:

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

Robbery Arrestees:

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

Felonious Assault Victims:

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

Felonious Assault Arrestees:

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

Grand Larceny Victims:

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

Grand Larceny Arrestees:

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

Shooting Victims:

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

Shooting Arrestees:

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

Drug Felony Arrest Population:

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

The Drug Misdemeanor Arrest Population

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

The Felony Stolen Property Arrest Population:

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

The Misdemeanor Stolen Property Arrest Population:

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

Violent Crime Suspects:

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

Reported Crime Complaint Juvenile Victims:

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

Juvenile Crime Complaint Arrestees:

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

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

                                                                Total Numbers        % the City’s Population  

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

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

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

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

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

THE TRUTH-AND THE DIRT–WILL OUT

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

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

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

The lawsuit claims that

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the following:

Michael Brown (left) roughing up a store owner

Lesley Mcspadden

Louis Head calls for arson in Ferguson

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

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

FETUS FANATICS UNLEASHED

In Bureaucracy, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 11, 2015 at 11:57 am

Republicans love fetuses.

In fact, they love them so much they’re willing to jeopardize the lives of pregnant women on their behalf.

On April 23, a Republican lawmaker in the Texas State House of Representatives offered an amendment that would force pregnant women to carry to term fetuses that can’t survive outside the womb.

The debate had started on a completely different subject–how to retool the State’s social safety net for the poor.  But as usually happens when Republicans hold a majority in a legislature, the subject quickly turned to abortion–and how to ban it.

Rep. Matt Schafer (R-Tyler) proposed an amendment that would make it illegal for a woman to have an abortion after 20 weeks–even if a fetus has “a severe and irrevsersible abnormality.”

Matt Schafer

This would force a woman to carry a dead fetus to term, even if a doctor warned that this could endanger her life.

Schafer justified his proposal on the grounds that suffering has been “part of the human condition, since sin entered the world.”

A highly probable consequence of that suffering could be the death of a woman from sepsis–a whole-body inflammation caused by an infection–by carrying a nonviable fetus.

Schaefer’s amendment actually passed, but he removed it for full committee review after Trey Martinez Fischer, the House Democrat from San Antonio, filed a legislative point of order.

Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) had an entirely different take on the proposal.

She called this year’s state legislature the most misogynistic she’s seen in her 21 years as a state representative,

“Women are leaders of their families, whether some men in this room do not recognize that,” she said after her male Republican colleagues refused to support a bill that would expand access to breastfeeding.

Click here: Texas House Proposal Would Force People to Carry to Term Non-Viable Fetuses

Schafer’s is just the latest Republican to try to insert government into the vaginas of American women.

An earlier one was Scott Walker–the current governor of Wisconsin and a Koch brothers favorite for donations as a 2016 Presidential candidate.

Scott Walker

As a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Walker introduced AB 538 in September, 1997.

This would have allowed doctors to withhold from a woman information about a fetal disability while abortion was still an available option.

In short, doctors would have been allowed to lie to her.

At the time, if a health care provider withheld information about a fetal disability while abortion was still an available option, s/he could be liable for the child’s future medical expenses. But AB 538 would have changed that.

According to the proposed bill:

“This bill creates an immunity from a wrongful birth or wrongful life action for a person who commits an act or fails to commit an act and that act or omission results in the birth of a child because a woman did not undergo an abortion that she would have undergone had the person not committed the act or not failed to commit the act.”

AB 538 was not passed, ultimately dying in April 1998 without receiving a floor vote.

So Walker and 28 colleagues tried again in 2001.

They re-introduced the same legislation as AB 360.  Although approved by the Orwellian-named “Family Law Committee,” it similarly failed to receive a floor vote.

In 1998, Walker introduced  “conscience clause” legislation that would have allowed medical professionals to cite religious reasons in denying patients medical services such as contraception.

The bill failed to pass, so he introduced it again in 1999.  This attempt also failed.  In 2001, he introduced it a third time–when it similarly failed.

During the 2012 Presidential race, Right-wing broadcaster Rush Limbaugh furiously denied that Republicans were waging a “war on women,” as charged by Democrats.

On November 5, 2012, Limbaugh said on his program:

“Now, this War on Women.  You know, it’s been fascinating to watch this in one regard, maddening, too.

“But supposedly [Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt] Romney and [Wisconsin Representative Paul] Ryan are gonna reverse Roe v. Wade and they’re gonna take contraception away from you, and that’s the essence of the War on Women.

“Romney, Ryan, Republicans are gonna take abortion away from you and they’re going to make sure that you don’t get contraception so that you have to get pregnant and you can’t get an abortion and therefore you have to stay home, stay in the kitchen.

“….Well, just as I said, reversing Roe v. Wade is nothing a president can do.  A president cannot touch it.  A president has no role in constitutional amendments.”

Click here: The Left’s War on Women Lies – The Rush Limbaugh Show

Limbaugh neglected to mention, however, that a President can appoint Justices to the United States Supreme Court–who could overrule Roe v. Wade.

He also failed to note that overturning Roe v. Wade–which legalized abortion in 1973–has been a top Republican goal for the last 42 years.

The coming 2016 race for President will doubtless see banning abortion take center stage in Republican agendas.

REPUBLICANS AS VOYEURS

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

Adolf Hitler had greater respect for the privacy of women than Republican members of the Arizona legislature.

At the height of World War II, Dr. Hans Lammers, legal advisor to Adolf Hitler, issued this legal directive at the enraged order of his Fuhrer:

“In many [criminal] cases it will undoubtedly be necessary to determine whether there were sexual relations between two people or not.

“But if this much is known, it is wholly superfluous to probe for closer particulars as to how and where such sexual intercourse took place.  The cross-examination of women in particular should cease!

“Every time that cross-examining police officials or judges keep probing for details as to the how and where of the sexual intercourse, the Fuhrer has gained the very clear impression that this is done for the same reason that the same intimate questions are asked in the Confessional box

“The Fuhrer wants clear instructions issued for the abolition of unnecessary cross-examination.”1

Adolf Hitler 

By contrast, the Arizona legislature has introduced a bill that:

  • Requires women who want their contraception covered by their health insurance to prove to their employers that they are taking it to treat medical conditions—not to prevent pregnancy; and
  • Makes it legal for employers to fire a woman for using birth control to prevent pregnancy.

“The bill goes beyond guaranteeing a person’s rights to express and practice their faith,” Anjali Abraham, a lobbyist for the ACLU, told the Senate panel.

Instead, the legislation “lets employers prioritize their beliefs over the beliefs, the interests, the needs of their employees, in this case, particularly, female employees.”

Current Arizona law states that health plans covering other prescription medications must include contraception.

To override this requirement, the State House of Representatives passed House Bill 2625 in early March, 2012.  The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed it on March 12.

The full Senate has yet to vote on the legislation.

House Bill 2625 allows any employer to refuse to cover contraception that will be used “for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes.”

If a woman wants the cost of her contraception covered, she must “submit a claim” to her employer providing evidence of a medical condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, that can be treated with birth control.

Even more invasive, the law allows Arizona employers to fire a woman upon finding out that she took birth control to prevent pregnancy.

In short: While Adolf Hitler was outraged at public officials taking what he considered a prurient interest in a woman’s sex life, Arizona’s Republican legislators feel no such restraint.

“I believe we live in America,” said Majority Whip Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale), who sponsored the bill.

“We don’t live in the Soviet Union. So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

In short, employers should be allowed to have Ayatollah-like power over the private sex-lives of their female employees.

The United States is not the Soviet Union. But if this bill is enacted, Arizona will bear a striking resemblance to Iran.

Debbie Lesko

This latest Republican effort should come as no surprise to anyone–least of all women.

Throughout 2011, Republicans attacked women’s reproductive rights–not simply access to legal abortion but even birth control.

The sheer number of laws proposed or enacted by Republicans at state and Federal levels–-to control the sex lives of American women–-is staggering.

At the state level:

  • State legislators introduced more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions and had enacted 135 of them by year’s end.
  • Seven states either fully defunded or tried to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care, contraception, breast cancer and STD screenings to millions of low-income women each year.

At the Congressional level:

  • Republicans used abortion and Planned Parenthood funding to extort Democratic concessions during budget negotiations and threatened to shut down the government.
  • Republicans introduced mandatory ultrasound bills.
  • Republicans tried to narrow the definition of rape to include only “forcible rape.”  Under this change, a woman who was coerced, drugged or otherwise incapacitated by a rapist, would not be legally counted as a rape victim.
  • Republicans barred the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised funds to help low-income women pay for abortions.

During the first two months of 2012:

  • Virginia Republicans introduced a bill whose original language required women to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure 24 hours before having an abortion.
  • A modified version of the bill–requiring women to receive trans-abdominal ultrasounds, was signed into law instead.
  • With the connivance of House Republicans, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, tried to pull cancer-screening grants from Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortions.
  • The House Oversight Committee convened a hearing to deny contraceptive insurance coverage under the guise of “protecting religious liberty.” The Democrats’ one female witness, Sandra Fluke, was forbidden to speak at it.
  • Right-wing broadcaster Rush Limbaugh and Foster Friess–Rick Santorum’s chief financial backer–publicly equated birth control use to sexual promiscuity.
  • During his 2012 campaign for the Presidency, Rick Santorum pledged that, if elected, he would wage an all-out war on birth control: “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

And yet Republicans like Rush Limbaugh insist they are not waging a “war on women.”

The situation calls to mind a famous joke:  A wife unexpectedly returns home and catches her husband in bed with another woman.  Before she can speak, her husband demands: “Now, what are you going to believe–your own eyes, or what I’m telling you?”

__________

  1. David Irving, The War Path, Viking Press, 1978.

WHEN COPS ARE LAWBREAKERS: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marilyn Mosby

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

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

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

* * * * *

This case has polarized Baltimore–and America.

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

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

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

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

Both sides are wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN COPS ARE LAWBREAKERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

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

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

His biography includes at least 18 arrests:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was he?

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

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

Freddie Gray

His last arrest came on April 12.

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

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

According to the police account of Gray’s arrest:

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

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

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

Miller further wrote that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inside a typical police van

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

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

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

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

Two things:

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

Politicians–with rare exceptions–have only two goals:

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

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

Consider Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

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

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

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

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

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

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

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

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

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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