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Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

HOW TO AVOID ONLINE SCAMS

In Business, Law, Social commentary on September 4, 2015 at 12:00 am

Receiving unsolicited, get-rich-quick emails has become a regular headache for millions of Internet users.

And the reason for this is that, all too often, they succeed in defrauding their recipients. In 2013, losses from Nigerian scams totaled $12.7 billion.

Click here: Millions of victims lost $12.7B last year falling for Nigerian scams | GeekTime

Here’s how to spot the warning signs of fraud:

  • Unsolicited:  You’re told you’ve won a lottery you never entered, or have inherited a fortune from someone you never knew existed.
  • Addressed Generally: “Attention!” “Dear Friend,” “Attention the owner of this email,” “Hello, Dear.”  Your name is not mentioned, because this email has been mass-mailed to thousands of intended victims.
  • Appeals to religion: “Hello Beloved in the Lord” or “Yours in Christ” seeks to create a bond with those who deeply believe in God.
  • Misuse of English: Mis-spellings and faulty grammar usually denote someone–probably a foreigner–using English as a second language.   Examples: Run-on sentences; “you’re” for “your”; “except” instead of “accept”; “Dear Beneficial” instead of “Dear Beneficiary.”
  • Appeals to Sympathy: “My husband just died” or “I am dying of cancer.”  This is to make you feel sorry for the sender and lower your guard as an intended victim.
  • Use of Important Titles/Organizations: “Director,” ‘Barrister,” “Secretary General of the United Nations,” “Police Inspector.” This is to impress recipients and convince them that the email comes from a trusted and legitimate organization.
  • Request for Personal Information: This includes some combination of: Name / Address / Telephone Number / Bank Name / Bank Account Number / Fax Number / Driver’s License Number / Occupation / Sex / Beneficiary / Passport Number
  • Claims of Deposit: “We have deposited the check of your fund to your account” is a typical line to instantly grab your attention. Someone you’ve never heard of claims he has just put a huge amount of money into an account you know nothing about.  Nor can you access it unless you first pay a “contact fee.”
  • The “Bank” is in Africa: Unless you know you have relatives there, this should be a dead giveaway to a scam. Africa is a continent kept alive by the charity of other nations.  It’s not in the business of doling out large sums of money to Westerners.

  • Overseas Phone Numbers: If you call these, you’ll have a huge bill.  So many people skip calling and just send the money “required” to receive their “cash prize.”
  • Highly Personal Requests: Asking you–someone they’ve never met–to assume the burden of acting as the executor of their “Last Will and Testament.”
  • Love Scams: The scammer poses as a man or woman–usually outside the United States–seeking love.  A series of emails flows back and forth for days/weeks, until the scammer says s/he will be glad to fly to the United States to be yours.  All you have to do is put up the money for the flight cost.
  • “Make Money From Home”: With most employers refusing to hire, “work from home” scams  promise a way to support yourself and your family. You’re required to provide bank information or pay an up-front “registration fee.”  Then you wait for job orders–that never come.
  • Debt Relief: Scammers promise to relieve most or all of your debt–for a large up-front fee.  You pay the fee–and are not only out of that money but still in debt.
  • Home Repair Schemes: Huge down payments are required for home repairs that never happen.
  • “Free” Trial Offcers: The service or product is free for awhile, but you must opt out later to avoid monthly billings.
  • The Email Claims to Be From the FBI: Often the “address” includes “Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crime Division.”  One such email was addressed: “Dear Beneficiary” and offered help in obtaining a “fund.”  The FBI is an investigative agency responsible to the U.S. Department of Justice. It does not resolve financial disputes or secure monies for “deserving” recipients. If the FBI wants to contact you, it will do so by letter or by sending agents to your address. The FBI’s own website states: “At this time we do not have a national e-mail address for sending or forwarding investigative information.”
  • “I Need Help”: You get an email claiming to be from someone you know–who’s “in jail here in Mexico” or some other foreign country.  S/he begs you to send money for bail or bribes to win his/her freedom.  If you get such an email, call the person to make certain.  Don’t rush to send money–chances are it will go directly to a scammer.

FBI Headquarters: Where stopping cybercrime is now a top priority.

There are several commonsense rules to follow in protecting yourself from online scammers:

  • Don’t trust people you’ve never met to want to give you money.
  • Shop online only with well-known merchants who have a good reputation.
  • If an email from a stranger asks you to send money, don’t do it.  If the sender claims to be a friend, call your friend first to make sure it came from him.
  • Don’t click on unknown links–especially those in emails from unknown senders.
  • If you’re required to pay an advance fee–“on faith”–to receive a big amount of money, the odds are it’s a scam.
  • If you can’t find any solid information on a company, chances are it doesn’t exist.
  • Under its new director, James Comey, the FBI is mounting a major effort against cybercrime. Click on its page at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber for solid advice on how to protect yourself online.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, the odds are: It is untrue.

SUIICIDE BY COP: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 31, 2015 at 12:10 am

By now, a second–and female–officer has arrived on the scene of the arrest of motorist Sandra Bland.

Bland: Make you feel real good for a female. Y’all strong, y’all real strong.

Encinia: I want you to wait right here.

Bland: I can’t go anywhere with your fucking knee in my back, duh!

Encinia: (to bystander): You need to leave! You need to leave!

(Bland continues screaming, but much of it is inaudible)

Encinia: For a warning you’re going to jail.

Bland: Whatever, whatever.

Encinia: You’re going to jail for resisting arrest. Stand up.

Bland: If I could, I can’t.

Encinia: OK, roll over.

Bland: I can’t even fucking feel my arms.

Encinia: Tuck your knee in, tuck your knee in.

Bland: (Crying): Goddamn. I can’t [muffled].

Encinia: Listen, listen. You’re going to sit up on your butt.

Bland: You just slammed my head into the ground and you do not even care …

[Bland has already told both officers that (1) she is an epileptic, and (2) Encinia slammed her head into the ground.  Now she is again putting them on notice that she could have sustained a traumatic brain injury.  But neither officer shows any concern.]

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Sandra Bland’s jail booking photo

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Female officer: Listen to how he is telling you to get up.

Bland: I can’t even hear.

Female officer: Yes you can.

[After having her head slammed into the ground, Bland says she cannot hear.  Both officers should consider that the injury to her head may be serious–and take her to an emergency room for evaluation.]

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Bland: He slammed my fucking head into the ground.

Encinia: Sit up on your butt.

Bland: What the hell.

Encinia: Now stand up.

Bland: All of this for a traffic signal. I swear to God. All of this for a traffic signal. (To bystander.) Thank you for recording! Thank you! For a traffic signal — slam me into the ground and everything! Everything! I hope y’all feel good.

Encinia: This officer saw everything.

Female officer: I saw everything.

[Since the female officer was not present when Encinia initially encountered Bland–as the video proves–she could not have “seen everything.”  Her claiming to have done so could be seen as evidence that she intends to lie on Encinia’s behalf.]

Bland:  And (mufled) no you didn’t.  You didn’t see everything leading up to it.

Female Officer: I’m not talking to you.

Bland:  You don’t have to.

[This is the last exchange between Bland and the officers as recorded on the dashcam video of Brian Encinia’s police cruiser.]

* * * * *

Born in 1987, Sandra Bland grew up in Illinois, and lived with her family in suburban Chicago.

She graduated Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, Illinois, where she ran track and played volleyball.  She was also a varsity cheerleader and part of the marching band.

She then attended Prairie View A&M University outside Hempstead, Waller County, Texas. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in agriculture.

Bland returned to Illinois in 2009.

In January 2015, she began posting videos on Facebook about police brutality against blacks.

In early July she traveled to Waller County, Texas, to begin a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M.

In one of her last conversations with her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, Bland said:

“Momma, now I know what my purpose is. My purpose is to go back to Texas. My purpose is to stop all social injustice in the South.”

On July 13–three days after her arrest on July 10–Bland was found dead in her cell in Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas.

Sandra Bland memorial

Police claimed that she had hanged herself, citing a video she posted in Facebook in March, where Bland stated she was depressed.

Cannon Lambert, an attorney for the Bland family, said that at the time of Bland’s death, her relatives were raising money for Bland’s $5,000 bail.  And Bland knew it.

“We don’t understand this,” said Lambert. “It doesn’t make sense.”

The Texas Rangers and the FBI are still investigating Bland’s death.

The Harris County medical examiner conducted an autopsy and ruled her death a suicide, claiming that it found no evidence of a violent struggle.

One possibility: Bland came to Texas to “stop all social injustice in the South.” She may have grown fatally depressed at her inability to “save herself” from jail over a simple traffic violation.

Another possibility: Texas authorities may have indulged in a long-cherished Texas tradition, best explained by a 19th-century Texas Ranger named Samuel Reid.

Reid served as a Ranger scout during the Mexican War (1846-1848).  Recalling his experiences south of the border, he wrote:

Our orders were most strict not to molest any unarmed Mexican.

“And if some of the most notorious of these villians were found shot, or hung up in the chaparral…the [United States] government was charitably bound to suppose that, during a fit of remorse and desperation, tortured by conscience for the many evil deeds they had committed, they had recklessly laid violent hands upon their own lives!  Quien sabe?”  

Meanwhile, Brian Encinia has been placed on administrative duties after the state Department of Public Safety found “violations of procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy.”

SUICIDE BY COP: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 30, 2015 at 1:02 am

The confrontation between black motorist Sandra Bland and Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia continued to worsen.

Encinia: If you would’ve just listened.

Bland: I was trying to sign the fucking ticket — whatever.

Encinia: Stop moving!

Bland: Are you fucking serious?

Encinia: Stop moving!

Bland: Oh I can’t wait ’til we go to court. Ooh I can’t wait. I cannot wait ’til we go to court. I can’t wait. Oh I can’t wait! You want me to sit down now?

Encinia: No.

Bland: Or are you going to throw me to the floor? That would make you feel better about yourself?

[Bland continues to attack Encinia’s masculinity–almost as if she’s daring him to rough her up.  If he wasn’t thinking of throwing her to the floor, she just gave him the idea.]

Sandra Bland voicemail from jail

Encinia: Knock it off!

Bland: Nah that would make you feel better about yourself. That would make you feel real good wouldn’t it? Pussy ass. Fucking pussy. For a failure to signal you’re doing all of this. In little ass Praire View, Texas. My God they must have …

[Niccolo Machiavelli, in his masterwork, The Discourses, offers this cautionary advice: “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words toward any one, for neither the one or the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy.

[“(Contempt) make(s) him more cautious, and (insults) increase his hatred of you, and make him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

[That’s clearly what happened here.]

Encinia: You were getting a warning, until now you’re going to jail.

Bland: I’m getting a — for what? For what?

Encinia: You can come read.

Bland: I’m getting a warning for what? For what!?

Encinia: Stay right here.

Bland: Well you just pointed me over there! Get your mind right.

Encinia: I said stay over here. Stay over here.

Bland: Ooh I swear on my life, y’all are some pussies. A pussy-ass cop, for a fucking signal you’re gonna take me to jail.

[Again, Bland is essentially daring Encinia–who has total control of her–to physically abuse her.  For her own sake, the smart thing to do would be to shut up.]

Encinia (to dispatch, or an officer arriving on scene): I got her in control she’s in some handcuffs.

Bland: For a fucking ticket. What a pussy. What a pussy. You’re about to break my fucking wrist!

Encinia: Stop moving.

Bland: I’m standing still! You keep moving me, goddammit.

Encinia: Stay right here. Stand right there.

Bland: Don’t touch me. Fucking pussy  — for a traffic ticket (inaudible).

(door slams)

[Again: More profanity–and yet another challenge to Encinia’s masculinity.]

Related image

Sandra Bland was an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement

Encinia: Come read right over here. This right here says ‘a warning.’ You started creating the problems.

Bland: You asked me what was wrong!

Encinia: Do you have anything on your person that’s illegal?

Bland: Do I feel like I have anything on me? This a fucking maxi dress.

Encinia: I’m going to remove your glasses.

Bland: This a maxi dress. (Inaudible) Fucking assholes.

Encinia: Come over here.

Bland: You about to break my wrist. Can you stop? You’re about to fucking break my wrist! Stop!!!

Encinia: Stop now! Stop it! If you would stop resisting.

Female officer: Stop resisting ma’am.

[Even if Bland is not resisting, the testimony of a second officer who says she is could have been used against her in court.]

Bland: (cries) For a fucking traffic ticket, you are such a pussy. You are such a pussy.

[Is Bland referring to Encinia or the female officer?  In either case, such language will do her no good–on the street or in court.]

Female officer: No, you are. You should not be fighting.

Encinia: Get on the ground!

Bland: For a traffic signal!

Encinia: You are yanking around, when you pull away from me, you’re resisting arrest.

Bland: Don’t it make you feel real good don’t it? A female for a traffic ticket. Don’t it make you feel good Officer Encinia? You’re a real man now. You just slammed me, knocked my head into the ground. I got epilepsy, you motherfucker.

[By stating she is epileptic, Bland has notified both officers that she could be in danger of a potentially lethal seizure at any moment.  The smart move for the police would have been to rush her to a hospital for an emergency checkup.  But they don’t even talk about doing this.]  

Encinia: Good. Good.

Bland: Good? Good?

Female officer: You should have thought about it before you started resisting.

[The female officer has just confimed–perhaps unintentionally–that her partner slammed Bland’s head into the ground.  She has also demonstrated her own indifference to Bland’s having received a potentially life-threatening injury.]

Bland: Make you feel real good for a female. Y’all strong, y’all real strong.

Encinia: I want you to wait right here.

Bland: I can’t go anywhere with your fucking knee in my back, duh!

Encinia: (to bystander): You need to leave! You need to leave!

[Although the bystander is not interfering in any way with the arrest, Encinia clearly does not want a non-cop witness to his treatment of Bland.] 

SUICIDE BY COP: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 29, 2015 at 12:17 am

There are some useful lessons to be learned from the arrest of Sandra Bland.

Lessons about how a police officer should behave toward the public.  And lessons about how the public can protect themselves from police abuse.

On July 10, Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia stopped black motorist Sandra Bland for failing to signal a lane change.

The confrontation quickly escalated to unwarranted aggression and threats by Encinia and foul-mouthed, combative behavior by Bland.

Brian Encinia: I’m going to yank you out of here.

Sandra Bland: OK, you’re going to yank me out of my car? OK, alright.

Encinia (calling in backup):  2547.

Bland: Let’s do this.

Encinia: Yeah, we’re going to.  (Grabs for Bland.)

Bland: Don’t touch me!

[Although Encinia is clearly angry, Bland’s refusal to exit her car was technically “resisting arrest.”  This was a charge to be fought–in court–by her attorney, not–on the street–by Bland.]

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me! I’m not under arrest–you don’t have the right to take me out of the car.

Encinia: You are under arrest!

[Once the officer says, “You are under arrest,” legally, that’s it. The arrest can be challenged later–in court.  And it may be found unwarranted–in court. But it’s useless and even dangerous to dispute a cop’s right to make an arrest on the street.]

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Brian Encinia

Bland: I’m under arrest? For what? For what? For what?

Encinia (to dispatch): 2547 county fm 1098 (inaudible) send me another unit. (To Bland) Get out of the car! Get out of the car now!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You’re trying to give me a ticket for failure….

Encinia: I said get out of the car!

Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You just opened my–

Encinia: I‘m giving you a lawful order. I’m going to drag you out of here.

Bland: So you’re threatening to drag me out of my own car?

Encinia: Get out of the car!

Bland: And then you’re going to [crosstalk] me?

Encinia: I will light you up! Get out! Now!   (Draws stun gun and points it at Bland.)

Bland: Wow. Wow.  (Bland exits car.)

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Brian Encinia aiming a Taser at Sandra Bland

Encinia: Get out. Now. Get out of the car!

Bland: For a failure to signal? You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Get over there.

Bland:  Right, yeah, let’s take this to court, let’s do this.

Encinia:  Go ahead.

Bland: For a failure to signal? Yup, for a failure to signal!

Encinia: Get off the phone!

Bland: (crosstalk)

Encinia: Get off the phone! Put your phone down!

Bland: I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property. Sir?

Encinia: Put your phone down right now. Put your phone down!

(Bland slams phone down on her trunk.)

Bland: For a fucking failure to signal. My goodness. Y’all are interesting. Very interesting.

[Profanity is never helpful in a situation like this–and usually leads to further escalation.  And when the case comes to trial, it’s likely to convince a jury: “She got what she deserved.”]

Encinia: Come over here. Come over here now.

Bland: You feelin’ good about yourself?

Encinia: Stand right here. Stand right there.

Bland: You feelin’ good about yourself? For a failure to signal? You feel real good about yourself don’t you? You feel good about yourself don’t you?

[Bland would have been well-advised to remain silent–and refrain from personal attacks on a man who’s clearly shown himself over the edge.]

Encinia: Turn around. Turn around. Turn around now. Put your hands behind your back.

Bland: Why am I being arrested?

Encinia: Turn around.

Bland: Why can’t you–

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. I will tell you–

Bland: Why am I being arrested?

Encinia: Turn around!

[Obviously, if Bland were complying with the order to “turn around,” Encinia would not be repeating it.]

Bland: Why won’t you tell me that part?

Encinia: I’m giving you a lawful order. Turn around.

Bland: Why will you not tell me what’s going on?

Encinia: You are not complying.

Bland: I’m not complying ’cause you just pulled me out of my car.

[Bland admits that she’s “not complying.” Had she lived, this could have been used against her in court.]

Encinia: Turn around.

Bland: Are you fucking kidding me? This is some bull…

Encinia: Put your hands behind your back.

Bland: ‘Cause you know this straight bullshit. And you’re full of shit. Full of straight shit. That’s all y’all are is some straight scared cops. South Carolina got y’all bitch asses scared. That’s all it is. Fucking scared of a female.

[Bland is directly challenging the masculinity of a man who clearly feels he has something to prove.  Big mistake.]

SUICIDE BY COP: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 28, 2015 at 12:51 am

Niccolo Machiavelli offered some advice that might have saved the life of Sandra Bland.

In 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the lessons he offered to those seeking to gain power was this:

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.

One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those who wish to be only lions do not realize this. 

When confronted by an armed and–in this case, egocentric–law enforcement officer, it’s always best to imitate the fox.

Black motorist Sandra Bland didn’t understand this truth.  Or, if she did, she flagrantly ignored it–to her own destruction.

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland

Bland, born in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois, had just arrived in Texas to take a job at Prairie View A&M University, outside Hempstead, Waller County.

In January, 2015, she began posting videos on Facebook, denouncing racism and police brutality.  In one she wrote: “In the news that we’ve seen as of late, you could stand there, surrender to the cops, and still be killed.”

On July 10, Bland was pulled over for a minor traffic violation by Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia.

FULL VIDEO OF SANDRA BLAND TRAFFIC STOP – YouTube

Their exchange was recorded on the dashcam video of Encinia’s police car, and has been transcribed by the Huffington Post’s Matt Ramos and Dhyana Taylor.

My own commentary on what happened is given in blue italics.

Brian Encinia: Hello ma’am. We’re the Texas Highway Patrol and the reason for your stop is because you failed to signal the lane change. Do you have your driver’s license and registration with you? What’s wrong? How long have you been in Texas?

Sandra Bland: Got here just today.

Encinia: OK. Do you have a driver’s license? (Pause) OK, where you headed to now? Give me a few minutes.

(Bland inaudible)

(Encinia returns to his car for several minutes, then approaches Bland again.)

Encinia: OK, ma’am.  You OK?

Bland: I’m waiting on you. This is your job. I’m waiting on you. When’re you going to let me go?

[A better–that is, safer–answer would have been: “I’m fine.”  And then to say nothing until the officer responds.]

Encinia: I don’t know, you seem very really irritated.

Bland: I am. I really am. I feel like it’s crap what I’m getting a ticket for. I was getting out of your way. You were speeding up, tailing me, so I move over and you stop me. So yeah, I am a little irritated, but that doesn’t stop you from giving me a ticket, so [inaudible] ticket.

[Bland may have been correct.  But accusing the officer of improperly stopping her was a mistake from the get-go. No cop is going to admit he made a mistake in stopping someone–especially a cop as clearly aggressive as Encinia quickly proved to be.]

Encinia: Are you done?

Bland: You asked me what was wrong, now I told you.

Encinia: OK.

Bland: So now I’m done, yeah.

Encinia: You mind putting out your cigarette, please? If you don’t mind?

Bland: I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?

[The smart thing would have been to put out the cigarette. Even though the trooper said “please,” this was clearly an order.]

Encinia: Well you can step on out now.

[This was clearly the point where Encinia decided to take action–to give her a warning, a ticket, or make an arrest  For most of the encounter, he doesn’t say which.]

Bland: I don’t have to step out of my car.

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: Why am I–?

Encinia: Step out of the car!

[It’s standard procedure for officers to order drivers to exit their cars before they write tickets or citations. The reason: The danger that the motorist might drive off–or even use the car as a weapon.]

Bland: No, you don’t have the right. No, you don’t have the right.

[Telling a policeman he doesn’t have the right to make an arrest is like telling a judge he doesn’t have the right to make a ruling.  Both are certain to land you in trouble.]

Encinia: Step out of the car.

Bland: You do not have the right. You do not have the right to do this.

Encinia: I do have the right, now step out or I will remove you.

[Even if the officer’s forthcoming actions are later ruled improper by a judge, he has the legal right at that time to enforce compliance with his orders.]

Bland: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself. [crosstalk] I am getting removed for a failure to signal?

Encinia: Step out or I will remove you. I’m giving you a lawful order.  Get out of the car now or I’m going to remove you.

Bland: And I’m calling my lawyer.

[Bland would have done better to simply get out of the car, submit to arrest, and then call her lawyer when she reached the police station.]

HOW TO END THE GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 27, 2015 at 12:10 am

According to The Mass Shooting Tracker, a project of Guns Are Cool, there have been 204 mass shooting events in the United States so far in 2015.

There have been 204 mass shootings — and 204 days — in 2015 so far – The Washington Post

There were

  • 18 mass shootings in April;
  • 39 in May;
  • and 41 in June.

July has been a particularly busy month for those seeking the title of “NRA Poster Boy”: 34 mass shootings so far–and the month isn’t over yet.

So what should the surviving victims of these rampages do to seek redress?

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

Three 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 National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

Second, don’t expect the mental health profession to prevent such future tragedies.

There is simply no definitive way to predict who is likely to commit mass murder.

And even if such a method were developed, it would likely be ruled unconstitutional.  A person can’t be jailed or hospitalized for fear of what he might do.

Third, those who survived these rampages–-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 steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals, terrorists 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 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 slaughters that could have been prevented.

THE FIRST RULE OF BUREAUCRACIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

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–waned to move on from this shameful page in the university’s history. And the university desperately tried to sweep the sordid scandal out of sight of the ticket-paying public–-and of history.

Among the steps it took:

  • Firing Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach who had led Penn State to a staggering 112 victories;
  • Ousting Graham Spanier, the university’s longtime president; and
  • Removing 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 Joe Paterno.

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

Joe Paterno

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, 2012:

“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.

Those who did were fired ot shipped to Hoover’s version of Siberia: A posting in remote Butte, Montana.

Within the Catholic Church, countless Catholic priests abusing young boys entrusted to their protection were repeatedly protected by their high-ranking superiors.

In private industry, whistleblowers who report rampant safety violations in nuclear power plants are often 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.

REPUBLICANS AND WEAPONIZED HATRED: PART FOUR (END)

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Images of Obama as Hitler

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

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

In fact:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret Service agents guarding President Obama

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

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

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

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

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

Among the steps that need to be taken:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REPUBLICANS AND WEAPONIZED HATRED: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

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

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

Joseph McCarthy

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

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

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

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

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

George H.W. Bush

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

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

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

Barack Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REPUBLICANS AND WEAPONIZED HATRED: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

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

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

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

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

Consider:

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

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

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

Sarah Palin’s “Crosshairs” Map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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