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Posts Tagged ‘NBC NEWS’

CREATING FELONS WITH A WORD

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 25, 2015 at 2:54 am

New York State prisons are about to get a lot fuller.

New York State Senator Tony Avella is sponsoring a bill to create a felony charge– “aggravated resisting arrest”–for people who have been convicted of resisting arrest twice in a 10-year period.

Under current law, resisting arrest is a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum penalty of one year in prison.

If the charge became a felony, those convicted could be sentenced from four years of probation to life in prison.

The bill has its origins in a letter the Lieutenants Benevolent Association–a police union–sent to New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bill Bratton in January requesting a change in the current law.

State Senator Avella’s proposed legislation reads as follows:

“A person is guilty of aggravated resisting arrest when he or she commits the crime of resisting arrest pursuant to Section 205.30 and has previously been convicted of such crimetwo prior times within a ten-year period.

“Aggravated resisting arrest is a class E felony.”

Click here: Bills

And Bratton, in testimony before the New York State Senate in February, supported harsher penalties for those who resist arrest.

“We need to get around this idea that you can resist arrest,” Bratton said to reporters after his appearance. “One of the ways to do that is to give penalties for that.”

This legislation–if enacted–will have both local and national implications.

Police pepper-spraying non-violent protesters

Local–because the NYPD is the largest police department in the country.  Its website states that it now has “approximately 34,500″ uniformed officers.

(To put that number into historical perspective: When Alexander the Great set out in 334 B.C. to conquer the Persian empire, his army numbered 30,000.)

National–because the NYPD is one of the most respected police departments in the country.  And other police departments will almost certainly follow suit in urging their state legislatures to pass similar legislation.

So what’s wrong with that?

“Resisting arrest” is one of those terms that can mean whatever a police officer wants it to mean.

If a prosecutor accuses someone of bank robbery, he must present valid evidence–such as witnesses, camera footage and (probably) portions of stolen money in the arrested person’s possession.

But if a cop says someone “resisted arrest,” the “evidence” often consists of only his claim.

“Resisting arrest” can mean anything–including that the person merely asked, “Why am I being arrested?”

WNYC–New York’s highly respected public radio station–reported in 2014 that 40% of resisting arrest cases are brought by five percent of police officers.

If an officer routinely claims that people are resisting arrest, this might signal his being overly aggressive toward civilians.

He might even use the criminal charge to cover up his use of excessive force.

This is especially relevant in light of a series of recent cases–some caught on camera–of police savagely beating arrestees, or using forbidden chokeholds on them.

Consider how such increased penalties could have affected the life of Tyeesha Mobley.

Mobley, 29, caught her nine-year-old son stealing $10 from her purse. She called the called the NYPD.

Can you please send over an officer to explain to my kids that stealing is wrong? she asked.

The police department obliged, sending over four officers to meet Mobley and her two boys at a nearby gas station.

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Tyeesha Mobley

The meeting started off well. “Three officers was joking around with [the nine-year-old who had stolen the $10], telling him, ‘You can’t be stealing; you’ll wind up going in the police car,’” Mobley testified at a court hearing in October, 2014.

But the fourth officer apparently resented the assignment. According to a lawsuit subsequently filed by Mobley, the following happened:

“You black bitches don’t know how to take care of your kids,” said the fourth officer.  “Why are you wasting our time?  Why don’t you take your fucking kid and leave?”

Mobley decided that was a good time to do just that

But before she could do so, the cop told her she was under arrest.

“What for?” she asked. “If you’re going to say another fucking word,” the lawsuit alleges the cop warned her, “I’m going to knock your teeth down your throat.”

He then shoved her up against a car, kicked her legs, and handcuffed her.

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Mobley spent a night in jail.  Her two boys were taken away and placed in foster care for four months–with a family that spoke no English.

Finally, a judge threw out the case against her.

Mobley has since filed a lawsuit against New York City, the NYPD and the Administration for Children’s Services.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how Mobley’s life could have been turned into an even greater hell under the proposed change in “resisting arrest” laws.

CALL A COP, GO TO JAIL

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on March 24, 2015 at 3:21 pm

As the stage line goes: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

A mother finds that her nine-year-old son has stolen money from her purse.  So she decides to have someone who commands respect teach him that stealing is wrong.

So she calls the police–and things go horribly wrong.

Here’s what happened.

Tyeesha Mobley, 29, caught her nine-year-old son stealing $10 from her purse.

So she called the called the New York Police Department (NYPD)

Can you please send over an officer to explain to my kids that stealing is wrong? she asked.

The police department agreed, and sent over not one but four officers to meet Mobley and her two boys at a nearby gas station.

https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.bet.com/content/dam/betcom/images/2015/03/National/031915-national-Tyeesha-Mobley.jpg.custom1200x675x20.dimg&imgrefurl=http://www.bet.com/news/national/photos/bring-that-week-back/2015/03/bring-that-week-back-parents-says-daughter-not-allowed-at-black-friend-s-sleepover.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Betcom-LatestPhotos+(BET.com+-+Latest+Photos)#!031915-national-Tyeesha-Mobley&docid=JHk4KstsAEHWfM&tbnid=O-hToga7ZXEKgM:&w=1200&h=675&ei=undefined&ved=undefined&iact=c

Tyeesha Mobley

The meeting started off well.

“Three officers was joking around with [the nine-year-old who had stolen the $10], telling him, ‘You can’t be stealing; you’ll wind up going in the police car,’” Mobley testified at a court hearing in October, 2014.

But the fourth officer apparently resented the assignment.

According to a lawsuit subsequently filed by Mobley, the following happened:

“You black bitches don’t know how to take care of your kids,” said the fourth officer.  “Why are you wasting our time?  Why don’t you take your fucking kid and leave?”

Mobley decided that was a good time to leave. But before she could do so, the cop told her she was under arrest.

“What for?” she asked.

“If you’re going to say another fucking word,” the lawsuit alleges the cop warned her, “I’m going to knock your teeth down your throat.”

He then shoved her up against a car, kicked her legs, and handcuffed her.

Mobley’s two sons–ages four and nine–could only watch in horror as their mother was being manhandled.

“Stop, you’re hurting mommy,” they cried, according to the complaint filed in the lawsuit.

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Yet worse was to come.

Mobley spent a night in jail.  Her two boys were taken away and placed in foster care for four months–with a family that spoke no English.

Finally, a judge threw out the case against her.

Mobley has since filed a lawsuit against New York City, the NYPD and the Administration for Children’s Services.

“She was simply trying to make sure her son stayed on the right path,” said her attorney, Philip Sporn.  “This shouldn’t  happen to anyone, let alone to a good mom with her kids.”

The lawsuit highlights a fundamental weakness of the American justice system.

Americans almost universally believe that any wrong can be rectified if enough money is paid out as punishment.

Thus, car makers who knowingly keep dangerous vehicles on the road instead of issuing a recall settle up in civil lawsuits.

As a rule, they refuse to admit wrongdoing–and the amount of money they’re forced to pay out to victims isn’t disclosed.

Nearly always, this means the victim–or his survivors–is forbidden to publicly say why the company paid out a huge settlement, such as: “They admitted they knew the brakes were faulty but they didn’t want to spend the money fixing them.”

And if the victims disclose this admission–or how much money they got from Car Maker X–that money can legally be taken from them.

Never, however, is a CEO criminally prosecuted for ordering his company to conceal wrongdoing or dangerous products.

Thus, corporate predators are allowed to escape the criminality of their actions–and go on to prey on other victims.

The same holds true with lawsuits against the police.

Even if Mobley wins a huge settlement, the officer who victimized her will almost certainly remain on the NYPD.

And he will be able to victimize others who have the bad luck to encounter him.

Handing out big chunks of money is not enough to establish justice for outrageous violations of people’s civil rights.

It’s as if former Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring, charged with war crimes, were allowed to fork over a big sum of money and then comfortably retire to his estate.

Until Americans realize that some crimes demand more than financial payment, this country’s “criminal justice system” will fail to live up to its name.

INVITING TERRORISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on March 23, 2015 at 5:44 pm

A group claiming affiliation with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claims to have posted online the names, photos,  street addresses, and, in some cases, ranks, of 100 American military service members.

And it called upon its Islamic “brothers residing in America” to kill them.

Calling itself Islamic State Hacking Division, the group said that it obtained this information by hacking military servers, databases and emails.

But an unnamed Defense Department official quoted by the New York Timesdownplayed the claim that government databases had been hacked.

Instead, he said most of the information could be found in public records, residential address search sites and social media.

Accompanying the release of this information was a message calling upon “lone wolf” Islamics to wage jihad stateside:

“These Kuffar [nonbelievers] that drop bombs over Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Khurasan and Somalia are from the same lands that you reside in, so when will you take action?

“Know that it is wajib [oblilgatory] for you to kill these kuffar! and now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for?

“Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking they are safe…”

After the information was posted, the Pentagon announced that it was investigating the matter.

So is the FBI.

Local police have been asked to step up patrols in the neighborhoods where the target service members live.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has shown itself at a loss to deal with this new threat of Islamic terrorists using the Internet as a recruiting tool.

The agency didn’t ask YouTube to take down the posted message until a CBS News reporter asked if it had done so.

And how is the United States Government responding to threats such as this?

It’s vastly increasing the numbers of potential terrorists within the United States.

According to a December 9, 2014 press release by the U.S. Department of State:

“We applaud the 25 countries that have agreed to resettle Syrian refugees, including some who will be accepting UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] referrals for the first time.

“The United States accepts the majority of all UNHCR referrals from around the world.  Last year, we reached our goal of resettling nearly 70,000 refugees from nearly 70 countries.  And we plan to lead in resettling Syrians as well.

“We are reviewing some 9,000 recent UNHCR referrals from Syria.  We are receiving roughly a thousand new ones each month, and we expect admissions from Syria to surge in 2015 and beyond.”

Click here: U.S. Plans To Lead in Resettling Syrian Refugees

Not only are swelling numbers of potential Islamic terrorists arriving almost daily in the United States, they are being provided, gratis, with assistance millions of hard-working Americans desperately need.

Assistance such as:

  • homes
  • furniture
  • clothes
  • English classes
  • help in enrolling their children in school
  • job training
  • health care

These will be provided by

  • the International Organization for Migrationtation to the United States;
  • networks of resettlement agencies
  • charities
  • churches
  • civic organizations
  • and local volunteers.

And what is the reason for the United States’ shipping so many potential terrorists into its borders?

Nothing more than simple liberal guilt for the sins of the world.

From the State Department’s press release:

“As the flow of [Syrian] refugees has grown to a mass exodus, countries hosting refugees in the region have contended with overcrowded hospitals and schools, shortages of everything from housing to water, economic pressures and recent evidence of mounting public resentment.

“But these very real burdens must pale in comparison to the daily struggles of Syrians themselves.

“Imagine losing practically everything – your loved ones, your home, your profession, and your dignity. Imagine the frustration of languishing for years, unable to work or send children to school, exhausting your resources and relying on handouts. Imagine fearing that this situation is never going to end.

“For Syrians and for other victims of violence and persecution – resettlement offers not just an escape, but a chance to start over.”

Of course, the State Department press release omits this startling fact:

Since 1979, Syria has been listed by the U.S. State Department as a sponsor of terrorism.

Among the terrorist groups it supports are Hizbollah and Hamas. For years, Syria provided a safe-house in Damascus to Ilich Ramírez Sánchez–the notorious terrorist better known as Carlos the Jackal.

There are no “good Syrians” for the United States to support–only murderers who have long served a tyrant and now wish to become the next tyrant.

Thus, flooding the United States with thousands–if not millions–of potential terroristic Fifth Columnists poses a genuine threat to present and future generations of Americans.

While Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

Read the rest of this entry »

POLYGRAPH BY COPIER

In History, Law Enforcement, Self-Help on March 20, 2015 at 2:43 pm

Ever heard of “polygraph by copier”? If you haven’t, here’s how it works:

A detective loads three sheets of paper into a Xerox machine.

“Truth” has been typed onto the first sheet.

“Truth” has been typed onto the seond sheet.

“Lie” has been typed onto the third sheet. Then a criminal suspect is led into the room and told to put his hand against the side of the machine. “What is your name?” asks the detective.

The suspect gives it.

The detective hits the copy button, and a page comes out: “Truth.”

“Where do you live?” asks the detective.

The suspect gives an address, the detective again hits the copy button, and a second page appears: “Truth.”

Then comes the bonus question: “Did you or did you not kill Big Jim Tate on the evening of….?”

The suspect answers.

The detective presses the copy button one last time, and the sheet appears: “Lie.”

“Well, well, well, you lying little bastard,” says the detective.

Convinced that the police have found some mysterious way to peer into the darkest recesses of his criminality, the suspect “gives it up” and makes a full confession.

Yes, contrary to what many believe, police can legally use deceit to obtain a confession.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled, in United States v. Russell: “Nor will the mere fact of deceit defeat a prosecution, for there are circumstances when the use of deceit is the only practicable law enforcement technique available.”

In that case, the Court narrowly upheld a conviction for methamphetamine production even though the defendant had argued entrapment.

So what types of interrogative deceit might a police officer use to develop admissible evidence of a suspect’s guilt?

The general rule is that deception can be used so long as it’s not likely to cause an innocent person to commit a crime or confess to a crime that s/he didn’t commit.

Click here: The Lawful Use of Deception – Article – POLICE Magazine

Consider the following examples:

  • A detective is interviewing a suspect in a rape case.  “Oh, that girl,” he says, thus implying that the victim was a slut and had it coming.  The suspect, thinking he’s dealing with a sympathetic listener, starts bragging about his latest conquest–only to learn, too late, that his listener isn’t so simpatico after all.
  • “We found your prints on the gun”–or on any number of other surfaces.  Actually, there are few good places on a pistol to leave prints.  And those that are left can be smeared.  The same goes for other surfaces.  But if a suspect can be led to believe the cops have his prints, a confession is often forthcoming.
  • A police officer is interrogating a suspect in a murder case.  “He came at you, didn’t he?” asks the cop.  The suspect, who murdered the victim in cold blood, thinks he has an escape route.  “Yeah, he came at me”–this confirming that, yes, he did kill the deceased.
  • “Your partner just gave you up” is a favorite police strategen when there is more than one suspect involved.  If one suspect can be made to “flip”–turn–against the other, the case is essentially wrapped up.
  • Interrogating a bank robbery suspect, a cop might say: “We know you didn’t do the shooting, that you were only the wheelman.”  This implies that the penalty for driving the getaway car is far less than that for killing someone during a robbery.  In fact, criminal law allows every member of the conspiracy to be charged as a principal.
  • “I don’t give a damn what you did,” says the detective.  “Just tell me why you did it.”  For some suspects, this offers a cathartic release, a chance to justify their guilt.
  • The “good cop/bad cop” routine is known to everyone who has ever seen a police drama.  Yet it continues to yield results so often it continues to be routinely used.  “Look, I believe you,” says the “good” cop, “but my partner’s a real asshole.  Just tell me what happened so we can clear this up and you can go.”
  • “So,” says the detective, “why do you think the police believe you did it?”  “I have no idea,” says the suspect, confident that he isn’t giving up anything that might come back to haunt him.  “Well,” says the cop, “I guess you’ll just have to make something up.”  Make something up sounds easy, but is actually a trap.  The suspect may end up giving away details that could incriminate him–or lying so brazenly that his lies can be used against him.

So is there a best way for a suspect to deal with an invitation to waive his Mirandaright to remain silent?

Yes, there is.

It’s to refuse to say anything and to ask for permission to call a lawyer.

That’s the preferred method for Mafia hitmen–and accused police officers. Any cop who finds himself under investigation by his department’s Internal Affairs unit automatically shuts up–and calls his lawyer.

Any other response–no matter how well-intentioned–may well result in a lengthy prison sentence.

VIETNAM IN THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on March 19, 2015 at 11:55 am

Michael Hastings was the Rolling Stone reporter whose article on “The Runaway General” ended the illustrious military career of General Stanley McCrystal.

In 2012, Hastings greatly expanded on his article with a vividly-written book: The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan.

According to its hardcover dust jacket: “General Stanley McCrystal, the innovative, forward-thinking, commanding general of international and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was living large.  He was better known to some as Big Stan, M4, Stan, and his loyal staff liked to call him a ‘rock star.’

General Stanley A. McCrystal

“During a spring 2010 trip across Europe to garner additional allied help for the war effort, McCrystal was accompanied by journalist Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone.

“For days, Hastings looked on as McCrystal and his staff let off steam, partying and openly bashing the Obama administration for what they saw as a lack of leadership.

“When Hastings’ piece appeared a few months later, it set off a poltical firestorm: McCrystal was ordred to Washington where he was fired uncereminously.”

But there is an even deeper element to be found within Hastings’ book–that is, for anyone with even a general knowledge of the war in Vietnam.

Hastings does not make any direct parallels between the almost 14-year conflict in Afghanistan and the  conflict that raged in Vietnam from 1961 to 1975.  But those parallels are definitely there for anyone to see.

Consider:

  • Ngo Dinh Diem, the “president” of South Vietnam (1955-1963) was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014t) is from a wealthy Pashtun family and is alienated from members of other Afghan tribes.
  • Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
  • Karzai’s authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul.
  • Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
  • Ditto for Karzai–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring democracy to Afghanistan.
  • Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
  • Ditto for Karzai.

Ngo Dinh Diem

Hamid Karzai

  • American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
  • American soldiers were sent to Afghanistan because America feared terrorism.
  • Americans were ordered to train the South Vietnamese to defend themselves against Communism.
  • American troopss were ordered to train the Afghan army to defend themselves against terrorism.
  • Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
  • Americans quickly determined that the Afghan army was worthless–and decided to fight the Taliban in its place.

American soldiers in Vietnam

  • There was massive distrust between American and South Vietnamese soldiers.
  • Ditto for relations between American and Afghan soldiers.
  • American soldiers in Vietnam felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • Ditto for American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
  • President John F. Kennedy doubted that Americans could win a war in Vietnam and tried to contain the conflict.
  • President Barack Obama came into office determined to contain the Afghan conflict and withdraw American troops as soon as possible.
  • In the early 1960s, the Pentagon saw Vietnam as “the only war we’ve got” and pressed to insert greater numbers of men.
  • In 2001, the Pentagon saw Afghanistan as “the only war we’ve got” and pressed to insert greater numbers of men.

American soldiers in Afghanistan

  • The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) posed no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • The far Right embraced the Vietnam war as a way to assert American power in Asia.
  • The far Right embraced the Afghan war–and later the war on Iraq–as a way to assert American power in the Middle East.
  • Counterinsurgency was preached as the key to defeating the Vietcong in Vietnam–where it didn’t work.
  • Counterinsurgency is now being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

From this, the United States should draw several conclusions:

  • Commit forces only when American security is truly threatened.
  • Go in with overwhelming force, destroy as much of the enemy as quickly as possible, then get out.
  • Occupations are costly in lives and treasure–as Napoleon and Hitler discovered–and should be avoided.
  • Don’t try to remake the cultures of other nations–especially those of a primitive, alien nature such as Afghanistan.

Hastings’ book does not cover the Afghan war to its end.  It can’t, since there is no telling when that war will end.

But by the end of its 379 pages, it’s clear what that outcome will be: Another futile exercise in “nation-building” at an exorbitant cost in American lives and treasure.

TRUMPING DEMOCRACY–AGAIN

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 18, 2015 at 11:09 am

On March 18, Right-wing businessman and “reality” television celebrity Donald Trump announced plans to form a presidential exploratory committee.

“I am the only one who can make America truly great again,” he declared.

With this in mind, it’s well to recall his behavior during the 2012 Presidential election.

On April 17, 2011, toying with the idea of entering the Presidential race, the always self-promoting Trump said this about  Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and GOP candidate:

“He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs. I’ve built a great company. I’m a much bigger businessman and have a much, much bigger net worth. I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.

Donald Trump

“Mitt Romney is a basically small-business guy, if you really think about it. He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy. He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn’t create. He worked there. He didn’t create it.”

Trump added that Bain Capital, the hedge fund where Romney made millions of dollars before running for governor, didn’t create any jobs. Whereas Trump claimed that he–Trump–had created “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

So Romney himself may have been puzzled when Trump announced, on February 2, 2012: “It’s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney” for President.

“Mitt is tough, he’s smart, he’s sharp, he’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get ‘em. You can do it,” said Trump.

And Romney, in turn, had his own swooning-girl moment: “I’m so honored to have his endorsement….There are some things that you just can’t imagine in your life. This is one of them.”

Mitt Romney

Throughout the 2012 Presidential race, Trump continued to “help” Romney–by repeatedly accusing President Barack Obama of not being an American citizen.

Had that been true, Obama would not have had the right to be President–since the Constitution says that only an American citizen can hold this position.

Of course, that was entirely what Trump wanted people to believe–that Obama was an illegitimate President, and deserved to be thrown out.

Come election night–and disaster for Romney.  And Trump.

When it became clear that Romney was not going to be America’s 45th President, Trump went ballistic on Twitter.  Among his tweets:

  • More votes equals a loss…revolution!
  • Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice!  The world is laughing at us.
  • We can’t let this happen.  We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.  Our nation is totally divided!
  • The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation.  The loser one!
  • He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election.  We should have a revolution in this country!

To put Trump’s rants into real-world perspective:

  • According to Trump, the electoral process works when a Republican wins the Presidency.  It only doesn’t work when a Democrat wins.
  • We should march on Washington” conjures up images of another Fascist–Benito Mussolini–marching on Rome at the head of his Blackshirts to sieze power.  Which is no doubt what Trump would love to do himself.
  • “The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation.  The loser one!”

This is absurd on three counts (four, if you count Trump’s misspelling of “won”).

First, the 2012 Republican Platform spoke lovingly about the need for preserving the Electoral College:

“We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.

“We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose ‘national popular vote’ would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”

Second, the loser didn’t win: He lost.  With votes still being counted (as of November 8) Obama got 60,652,238.  Romney got 57,810,407.

Third, in 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote (50,999,897) to George W. Bush’s 50,456,002.  But Bush trounced Gore in the Electoral College (271 to 266).

Still, that meant Bush–not Gore–would head the country for the next eight years.  And that was perfectly OK with right-wingers like Trump.

It was only when Obama won the Electoral College count by 332 to 206 that this was–according to Trump–a “travesty.”

And Trump’s solution if voters dare to elect someone other than Trump’s pet choice: “Revolution!”

This comes perilously close to advocating violent overthrow of the government.  Otherwise known as treason–a crime traditionally punished by execution, or at least lengthy imprisonment.

In 2016, Americans would do well to consider the implications of this in the case of Donald Trump.

THE LEFT AND RIGHT AGREE: CENSORSHIP IS GOOD

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 16, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Dictators on the Right and Left have different goals, but their tactics always remain the same. And chief among these tactics is the use of censorship–to glorify themselves and silence anyone who disagrees with them.

A dramatic example of censorship on the Left occurred in April, 1986,courtesy of Mikhail Gorbachev, recently-installed leader of the Soviet Union.

Elected General Secretary on March 11, 1985 by members of the ruling Communist Party, Gorbachev had quickly set out to revitalize the ailing empire he had inherited.

He introduced two new words to both the Soviet and Western vocabularies: “glasnost” (“openness”) and “perestroika” (“restructuring”).

It was “glasnost” that attracted immediate attention from Western scholars and journalists.  Gorbachev seemed to be promsing an end to rigid Soviet censorship of the press–for both Soviets and foreign correspondents.

The first test of this new polilcy came on April 26, 1986. An explosion blew the roof off the fourth reactor building at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Kiev, Ukraine. Massive quantities of radioactive particles began spewing into the air.

Explosion at Chernobyl nuclear power plant

And the Soviet government–supposedly committed to a policy of “openness”–reacted with silence.

No warnings went out to the Ukraine, to other parts of the Soviet Union, or to nations beyond the reach of the Red Army.

At 9 a.m. on April 28–more than 55 and a half hours after the explosion–an alarm sounded at the Forsmark Nuclear Power station in Sweden.

High amounts of radioactivity were being detected, but nobody knew from where.

The radiation spread to Denmark, Finland and Norway.  Scandinavian experts quickly traced the fallout to its source: The Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

But when Swedish authorities directly asked the Soviet government for an explanation, the reply they got was: Nothing happened.

On April 28 the Kremlin issued a statement: “An accident occurred at the Chornobyl Atomic Power Plant and one of the reactors was damaged. Measures have been undertaken to eliminate the consequences of the accident.”

As Moscow tried to keep a lid on the expanding catastrophe, Ukrainians tuned in to broadcasts over Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America or Radio Liberty.

But picking up these broadcasts was hard, because the Soviets–despite “glasnost”–continued their decades-old policy of jamming foreign radio stations.

On April 29, the Kremlin finally admitted that an “accident” at Chernobyl had killed two people, but “the situation has now been stabilized” and was under control.

American spy satelliltes, however, relayed pictures of fires still burning out of control at Chernobyl while Soviet aircraft circled the plant dumping chemicals to stop the blaze.

Meanwhile, Soviet TV “news” commentators parroted the line that there was nothing to worry about.

On April 30, the “news” led with a story about spring flowers in Ukraine and preparations for the annual May Day celebration in Moscow.

But the truth finally caught up with the Soviets.

By May 1986, about a month later, all those living within a 19 mile of the plant (about 116,000 people) had been relocated. According to reports from Soviet scientists, 10,800 square miles were contaminated.

Roughly 830,000 people lived in this area. Some reports project 30,000 to 60,000 excess cancer deaths, with predicted excess cases of thyroid cancer ranging between 18,000 and 66,000 in Belarus alone, depending on the risk-projection model.

Right-wingers also embrace censorship when it suits their aims. Such as in Florida–where coastal islands face the treat of being swallowed by the ocean and daily floods create nightmares for highway travelers.

But Rick Scott–its Republican Governor and a 2916 Presidential hopeful–doesn’t believe in “climate change’ or “global warming.”  Asked by a reporter for his views on the subject, he fobbed off the question with, “Well, I’m not a scientist.”

Smiling through the coming apocalypse: Rick Scott

Accordingly, he has ordered members of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to stop using those terms “global warming” and “climate change” in official correspondence.

DEP has a $1.4 billion budget and 3,200 employees, but is forbidden to speak openly about perhaps the foremost danger now facing Floridians.

According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) the policy is “unwritten” and was “distributed verbally statewide.”

Just as the Nazis passed down many of their orders verbally, to ensure deniability, so has Scott.

Accordingly, John Tupps, Scott’s spokesman, assured The Washington Post: “There is no policy in existence. … Allegations and claims made in the [Florida investigative article] are not true. This policy, it doesn’t exist.”

But FCIR has no reservations about exposing the issue that threatens the very existence of the state.

“The irony is clearly apparent,” said Tristam Korten, one of FCIR’s writers. “Florida is a peninsula with 1,200 miles of coastline, and when it comes to climate change, we’re the canary in the coalmine. And we’re relying on the state government to protect us and to plan for these changes.”

Rising sea levels threaten Miami–and the rest of Florida

Further proof of the governor’s censorship decree comes from statements of former DEP employees.

One of these, Kristina Trotta, was told during a 2014 meeting that she couldn’t employ terms such as “climate change” and “global warming.”

“We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact. The regional administrator told us that we are the governor’s agency; this is the message from the governor’s office. And that is the message we will portray.”

HOW TO BE A SMARTER EXECUTIVE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Self-Help on March 13, 2015 at 12:08 am

“The man who builds a factory,” said President Calvin Coolidge, “builds a temple.  And the man who works there worships there.”

Many American corporate executives still feel about themselves–nd their employees.  But those heady days of knee-jerk worship of CEOs and their oversize salaries and egos are over–at least, temporarily.

Americans have reluctantly learned that the robber barons who rule Wall Street arenot God’s own elect.

Even Ayn Rand disciple Allen Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman and a longtime champion of de-regulation, has admitted he totally underestimated the role greed plays in the making of financial decisions.

It’s thus time for Americans to demand wholesale reforms in the ways corporate executives are allowed to operate. And a good place to start is with the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli.

The Florentine statesman (1469-1527) wrote extensively about how bureaucracies truly work–as opposed to how people believe they do.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Consider the following from his book, The Prince, which offers instruction on how to attain and retain power:

  • IMITATE THOSE WHO HAVE ATTAINED GREATNESS: Not always being able to follow others exactly, nor attain to the excellence of those he imitates, a prudent man should always follow in the paths trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent….  If he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it.
  • DON’T RELY ON LOVE:  …I conclude, therefore, with regard to being loved and feared, that men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and that a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others, and he must only contrive to avoid incurring hatred….
  • NEED TO BE PRACTICAL:  A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.
  • CAUTION AND BOLDNESS: A [leader]…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.
  • SANCTIONS VS. FAVORS:  [Leaders] should let the carrying out of unfavorable duties devolve to others, and bestow favors themselves.
  • RISK AS A GIVEN: Let no [leader] believe that [he] can always follow a safe policy, rather let [he] think that all are doubtful.  This is found in the nature of things, that one never tries to avoid one difficulty without running into another, but prudence consists in being able to know the nature of the difficulties, and taking the least harmful as good.
  • A RULER’S SUBORDINATES: The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him.  When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful.
  • But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.
  • EVALUATING COMPETENCE:  There are three different kinds of brains: the one understands things unassisted, the other understands things when shown by others, the third understands neither alone nor with the explanations of others.  The first kind is most excellent; the second is also excellent; but the third is useless.
  • OVERCOMING ONE’S OWN NATURE:  No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to [time and circumstances], either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him.
  • Or else because having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it; and therefore the cautious man, when it is time to act suddenly, does not know how to do so and is consequently ruined.  For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.
  • ENSURING LOYALTY:  A wise prince will seek means by which his subjects will always have need of his government, and then they will always be faithful to him.
  • CRUELTIES:  Well-committed may be called those…cruelties which are perpetrated once for the need of securing one’s self, and which afterward are not persisted in, but are exchanged for measures as useful to the subjects as possible.  Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time.
  • FORTUNE: I think it may be true that fortune is the ruler of half our actions, but that she allows the other half or thereabouts to be governed by us.
  • I would compare her to an impetuous river that, when turbulent, inundates the plains, casts down trees and buildings, removes earth from this side and places it on the other; every one flees before it, and everything yields to its fury without being able to oppose it.  Still, when it is quiet, men can make provisions against it by dykes and banks, so that when it follows it will either go into a canal or its rush will not be so wild and dangerous.

LANDLORDS: AMERICA’S AYATOLLAHS: PART TWO (END)

In Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 12, 2015 at 1:11 am

Become a tenant at the Windermere Cay complex in Winter Garden, Florida, and you can check your First Amendment rights at the door.

Its management wants to force new tenants to sign a “social media addendum” as part of their lease.  And if they dare to post a negative online review of the building, they’ll face a fine of $10,000.

But reaction to this attempted muzzling of freedom of speech has been one the landlord probably didn’t expect.

Yelp! has been flooded with negative reviews of the complex.

Among these:

If you are that worried about negative reviews, that just makes me ask one question: What are you hiding?

* * * * *

This complex made national news by threatening a $10k fine to residents if they share a bad review or photo. This legal bullying demonstrates either an oppressive management or a complete ignorance of social media or personal freedom.

In both cases you should exercise caution if considering them and read your contracts carefully.

* * * * *

I’ve got a great business idea. When our customers complain, instead of us fixing the problem we will threaten them with blackmail by asking them for ten grand.

* * * * *

Sieg Heil Windermere!! Gestapo much???

What century do you people exist in?? I wouldn’t live here if you paid me to. You couldn’t give these units away considering your BS threats to FINE RESIDENTS TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!

WTF is wrong with you people!! Anyone who gets a paycheck from this corporate monstrosity should be fired (or quit if they have half a brain…). Whoever came up with this super clever idea of A 10K FINE should be kneecapped.

* * * * *

Well apparently anyone who lives here will get fined $10,000 for any bad reviews, and any photos posted on reviews are copyrighted to the company by terms of the lease???

This complex is about as dishonest as it gets guys. If an apartment needs a policy like this then what else do you need to know about the quality of the management here.

* * * * *

The owners of the Apartment Complex are literally anti-free speech Nazis.  Don’t move here unless you have $10k in your bank account and don’t believe in the First Amendment.

* * * * *

This apartment complex deserves 0 stars, shame on the management company for deceiving people into signing their addendum.

* * * * *

Be cautious of anywhere that fears the residents’ honest feedback so much that they forbid them from speaking out on social media.  The energy spent on creating this stupid 10K clause could have been spent on actually creating an enjoyable living experience.

Click here: Windermere Cay – Apartments – Yelp

The sudden onslaught of bad publicity obviously caught the complex by surprise.

When contacted by Ars Technica, the online magazine that had exposed this outrage, a manager disclaimed the contract:

“This addendum was put in place by a previous general partner for the community following a series of false reviews. The current general partner and property management do not support the continued use of this addendum and have voided it for all residents.”

This despite the fact that the addendum had been given to a tenant to sign just a few days before.

Not only have these strong-arm tactics yielded a tidal wave of bad publicity, such an addendum would be legally unenforceable.

For starters, it’s a blatant violation of the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of speech and the press.

States have taken struck down efforts by businesses to censor the written opinions of their customers.

In his 2003 decision in New York vs. Network Associates, a judge ruled that telling customers they couldn’t publish reviews of software “without prior consent” violated New York’s unfair competition law.

Americans all-too-often take their Constitutionally-protected freedoms for granted–until they travel abroad to nations ruled by dictators.  Or until they encounter would-be dictators at home.

Harrison E. Salisbury, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, faced the difficulties of censorship during his years as Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times (1949-1954).

Harrison E. Salisbury, with the Kremlin in back

Salisbury found he couldn’t rely on the Soviet government for reliable information on almost everything.  Crime statistics weren’t published–because, officially, there was no crime in the “Workers’ Paradise.”

Unable to obtain reliable economic statistics, he plotted the rise and fall of the economy by shortages and surpluses in local stores.

Above all, Salisbury faced the danger of reporting accurately on the increasing paranoia and purges of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

“The truth, I was ultimately to learn,” wrote Salisbury in his bestselling 1983 memoir, A Journey for Our Times, “is the most dangerous thing.  There are no ends to which men of power will not go to put out its eyes.”

Censorship victimizes both those who are censored and those who could profit from the truths they have to share.

Americans may be unable to bring freedom of expression to nations ruled by dictators. But they can–and should–fight to ensure that freedom of expression remains a hallmark of their own society.

LANDLORDS: AMERICA’S AYATOLLAHS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on March 11, 2015 at 11:40 am

Americans have a history of fearing what foreign dictators might do to them.

During World War II they feared that the Japanese Empire might turn them into a nation of Japanese-speaking slaves.

During the Cold War, TV ads often reminded Americans that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev once said: “We will bury you.”

Today, Americans–especially those on the Right–fear Iranian Ayatollahs will force them to wear turbans and quote the Koran.

Strangely, few Americans seem to fear the ayatollahs much closer to home: Landlords.

The power of landlords calls to mind the scene in 1987′s The Untouchables, where Sean Connery’s veteran cop tells Eliot Ness: “Everybody knows where the liquor is. It’s just a question of: Who wants to cross Capone?”

Many tenants have lived with rotting floors, bedbugs, nonworking toilets, mice/rats, chipping lead-based paint and other outrages for not simply months but years.

Even in San Francisco–the city misnamed as a “renter’s paradise”–landlords are treated like gods by the very agencies that are supposed to protect tenants against their abuses.

Many landlords are eager to kick out long-time residents in favor of new, wealthier high-tech workers moving to San Francisco.  An influx of these workers and a resulting housing shortage has proven a godsend for landlords.

In July, 2014, a 98-year-old San Francisco woman faced eviction from her apartment of 50 years, because the building’s owners wanted to sell the place to take advantage of the city’s booming real estate market.

“I’ve been very happy here,” Mary Phillips told KRON 4, an independent San Francisco TV station. “I’ve always paid my rent.  I’ve never been late.”

The landlord, Urban Green Investments, sought to evict her and several other tenants through the Ellis Act.  This is a 1986 California law that allows landlords evict tenants to get out of the rental business.

Urban Green Investments has bought several buildings in San Francisco, evicted their residents through the Ellis Act, and resold the buildings for profit.  Many of those being evicted are low income families and seniors.

Phillips vowed to fight her eviction: “They’re going to have to take me out of here feet first,” she told KRON. “Just because of your age, don’t let people push you around.”

Phillips said she has nowhere else to live, and she and her attorneys fought the eviction.  They did so not only through the courts but ongoing street protests.

Those efforts paid off in November, 2014. As part of the resolution of her case, Phillips released the following public statement:

Mary Elizabeth Phillips has reached an agreement with Urban Green Investments that will allow her to live in her apartment for as long as she likes, through the end of her life.

“Mrs. Phillips appreciates the support she has received from the community over the past year, and she requests that interested people please respect her privacy so that she may peacefully enjoy her home. Thank you.”

That case, at least, had a happy ending.  But tenants at an apartment complex in Winter Garden, Florida, may not prove so fortunate.

The Windermere Cay has forced new tenants to sign a “social media addendum” that threatens a fine of $10,000 if they give the complex a bad online review.  It also forces tenants to sign away their rights to any photos, reviews or other material about the apartments that are posted online.

The Windermere Cay

The addendum went viral on March 10 after at least one tenant shared it with the online magazine, Ars Technica.  It reads in part:

“In the event that this Social Media Addendum is breached by any or all of the Applicants for any reason, the Applicants shall be jointly and severally liable to pay Owner liquidated damges representing a reasonable and good faith estimate of the actual damages for such breach.

“Owner and Applicants agree that, in the event of a breach, Owner’s damages would be difficult to ascertain.

“Accordingly, Owner and each Applicant agrees that the amount of compensation due to Owner for any breach of this Social Media Addendum will be $10,000 for the first such breach, and an additional $5,000 for each subsequent breach….

“In the event of breach, the Applicants will pay the liquidated damages owed to Owner within ten (10) business days of the breach.”

In addition, there is this: “Applicant will refrain from directly or indirectly publishing or airing negative commentary regarding the Unit, Owner, property or the apartments.

“This means that Applicant shall not post negative commentary or reviews on Yelp!, Apartment Ratings, Facebook, or any other website or Internet-based publication or blog.”

The reaction to this attempted muzzling of freedom of speech has been one the landlord probably didn’t expect. Yelp! has been flooded with negative reviews of the complex.

One five-star review–obviously written tongue-in-cheek–was signed “Adolf H[itler]” and praised the complex for having “my kind of management.”

There will be more about online reaction to thie latest attempt at landlord censorship in Part Two of this series.

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