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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. NAVY SEALS’

HOSTAGE NEGOTIATION: KGB STYLE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on June 18, 2014 at 10:12 am

Retrieving hostages is always a difficult task.

Even when you get your hostages back, there can be serious reprecussions–as President Barack Obama is fast learning.

Several Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate believe that Obama broke the law by exchanging five Taliban leaders for captured U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.

And they are urging Congress to investigate whether this is grounds for impeachment.

A Federal law requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress 30 days before releasing any detainees from prison.  He must also explain why they are not expected to again pose a threat to the United States.

“I think in the eyes of many, he broke the law by not informing Congress 30 days before that,” California Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC Monday.

“[National Security Advisor Susan] Rice said Congress has been informed of this along the way. I don’t know who they were talking to. I have not been a part of this, and I’m the chairman of the committee.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is highly concerned that the five released Taliban prisoners could will return to wage war against Americans.

Senator Lindsey Graham

In a letter he recently sent to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Graham stated:

“The five terrorists released were the hardest of the hard-core. They have American blood on their hands and surely as night follows day they will return to the fight.

“In effect, we released the ‘Taliban Dream Team.’ The United States is less safe because of these actions.”

Graham predicted that the release will “inevitably lead to more Americans being kidnapped and held hostage throughout the world.”

Meanwhile, in Israel, tensions are high over the kidnapping, on June 12, of three teenagers in the West Bank.  They were hitchhiking home near the Palestinian city of Hebron.  Two of the teens are Israelis; the third is an American.

Their kidnappers are presumed to be Palestinian militants.

Israeli soldiers scoured the West Bank but, so far, no signs of the missing teens have turned up.  And, so far, no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, warned his countrymen in a televised statement: “We are in the midst of a complex operation. We need to be prepared for the possibility that it will take time.”

Usually, political kidnappings trigger ransom demands and agonizing decisions by high-ranking government officials as to whether they should be met.

But there is another way governments can respond to such terroristic blackmail.  It might be called, “The KGB Method.”

On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies.  Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump.  He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.

Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

The KGB then informed the Hizbollah leader: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.

Click here: Hostages? No Problem Soviets Offer ‘How-to’ Lesson In Kidnapping – Philly.com

Both the United States and Israel–the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings–have elite Special Forces units.

These could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist grouops: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned more than 500 years ago: “Men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. 

“For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

In the United States, the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready.  They require only the orders.

WHAT AMERICA OWES THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 28, 2014 at 12:11 am

In peace, sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons.
–Herodotus

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • 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 and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • In 2012, the NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.”  In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets.  The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw.  Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!”     http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, tried to defeat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Yet the President has meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto Amtrak trains.  Since becoming Chief Executive, he has made no effort to curb gun violence.

  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  It expired in 2004. The NRA–aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally–easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson, Arizona,  grocery store.  Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.  The total number of victims: six dead, 13 wounded.  Severely brain-damaged, Giffords was forced to resign her Congressional seat.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after being shot

  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer.  “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.”
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.”  This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections.  This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA has long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA–an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – October 26, 1881

And that is precisely what the United States is fast becoming.

Except, so far, the vast majority of victims have not been armed gunfighters but unarmed innocents.  And it’s been the “gun rights” types whom the NRA supports who have done the killing.

WHAT AMERICA OWES THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2014 at 12:02 am

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

By December, the power of the Taliban was broken–and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than ten years, the United States–through its global military and espionage networks–has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan–and shot him dead.

U.S. Navy SEALs

Now, consider these statistics of death, supplied by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • One in three people in the U.S. knows someone who has been shot.
  • On average, 32 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 140 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
  • Every day on average, 51 people kill themselves with a firearm.
  • Another 45 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
  • U.S. firearm homicide rates are 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
  • An average of eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
  • American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
  • Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties.
  • Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths.
  • Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
  • Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
  • In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.
  • Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
  • The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

In short, in one year on average:

  • More than 100,000 Americans are shot in murders, assault, suicides, suicide attempts, accidents or by police intervention.
  • 31,537 people die from gun violence.
  • 18,783 people kill themselves.
  • 584 people are killed accidentally.
  • 334 are killed by police intervention.
  • 252 die but intent is not known.
  • 71,386 people survive gun injuries.

(These statistics are based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

The National Rifle Association (NRA), of course.

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.

Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by both Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA political endorsements–and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

At the time Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies.  On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 69 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into thermonuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces–Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS–are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • American Intelligence has have come a long way since 9/11. The FBI’s top priority is to prevent another such terrorist attack, not simply investigate it afterward.
  • And waging war on criminals generally are about 836,787 full-time sworn local/state/Federal law enforcement officers.
  • If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies–such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration–can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

AN UNNECESSARY DEATH

In History, Military, Social commentary on March 14, 2014 at 12:01 am

Chris Kyle was an American patriot–serving four tours of duty in Iraq.

He was a warrior’s warrior–a member of the elite U.S. Navy SEALS.

Chris Kyle

He was a killer: From 1999 to 2009 he recorded more than 160 confirmed kills as a sniper–the most in U.S. military history.  Iraqis came to refer to him as “The Devil” and put a $20,000 bounty on his life.

He was an expert on firearms:  After leaving combat duty, he became the chief instructor for training the Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper team.  And he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual.

He was a successful writer: Author of the 2012 bestselling American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. 

And his second and final book, American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms, proved equally successful

He created a nonprofit company, FITCO Cares, to provide at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

And he was a mentor to veterans suffering from PTSD–Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was this last activity–and, more importantly, his approach to therapy–that cost him his life.

On February 2, 2013, an Iraq War veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD, turned a semi-automatic pistol on Chris Kyle and Kyle’s friend, Chad Littlefield, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.

The accused murderer is Eddie Ray Routh, of Lancaster, Texas.  Routh, a corporal in the Marines, was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.

Police later found the murder weapon at his home.

Routh is being held on one charge of capital murder and two charges of murder.

It was apparently Kyle’s belief that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said that Routh’s mother “may have reached out to Mr. Kyle to try to help her son.

“We kind of have an idea that maybe that’s why they were at the range for some type of therapy that Mr. Kyle assists people with. And I don’t know if it’s called shooting therapy, I don’t have any idea.”

According to Travis Cox, the director of FITCO Cares: “What I know is Chris and a gentleman–great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield–took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand, and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them.”

The National Rifle Association has taken a stance on firearms that can only be described as: “The more guns, the better.”

The NRA:

  • Opposes any background checks for firearms owners.
  • Opposes any waiting period for the purchase of a firearm. 
  • Opposes laws banning the ownership of military-style, “high-capacity” firearms.
  • Opposes any limits on how many firearms a person may own.
  • Pushes legislation to allow virtually anyone to carry a handgun–openly or concealed, even in bars and churches.
  • Is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” laws now in effect in more than half the states.  These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to try to retreat first.
  • 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.
  • Has repeatedly asserted that if more Americans knew the joys of firearm ownership they would just as fervently resist any attempt at controlling the spread of firearms.

Chris Kyle was undoubtedly one of the foremost experts on firearms in the United States.  Few knew better than he did the rules for safe gun-handling.

And yet he broke perhaps the most basic commonsense rule of all: Never trust an unstable person with a loaded firearm.

And it was the breaking of that rule that killed him.

Kyle, who was 38, is survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children.

Certainly only praise can be lavished on Kyle for his generous efforts to help his fellow veterans suffering from PTSD.

But, equally certainly, there were other–and far safer–forms of help that he could have offered–such as:

  • Urging Routh to get psychiatric counseling.
  • Suggesting that he find purpose in a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, which is devoted to building  affordable housing for the poor.
  • Helping him find mental healthcare through the Veterans Administration.

Instead, he chose “gun therapy” as his preferred method of treatment.

Kyle almost certainly knew he was dealing with a mentally unstable person.

Yet he chose to place himself in close proximity to such a man.  And to take him to a shooting range where the discharge of firearms is expected.

Kyle was an expert on using firearms in self-defense.  But that knowledge proved useless when he allowed his empathy to overrule his common sense.

And this, in turn, raises yet another question for the NRA to answer: If a certified weapons expert can’t protect himself against a psychopathic gunman, how can the rest of us?

TRAYVON’S REAL KILLER: THE NRA (PART THREE – END)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 31, 2013 at 12:10 am

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

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

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

What should the surviving victims of gun violence do to seek redress?

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

Two things:

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

Politicians–with rare exceptions–have only two goals:

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

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

Consider Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

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

On July 22, 2012–only two days after the Century 16 Theater slaughter in Aurora, Colorado–U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said: “The fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place.

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

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

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

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

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

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

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRAYVON’S REAL KILLER: THE NRA (PART TWO OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • In July, 2005, George Zimmerman was arrested for shoving a police officer during an underage drinking raid. The charges were dropped after he completed an alcohol education program. That same summer, his ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him, alleging that Zimmerman hit her.
  • Yet he was allowed to carry a loaded, hidden handgun as a Florida resident–under the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the legislature.
  • Under that law: A Concealed Carry Permit is revoked only if a gun owner is convicted of a felony.  It is not suspended if he’s being investigated for a felony.  It is suspended only if he is actually charged.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.”
  • In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets.  The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw.  Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm – but it does so with ease!”     http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • On July 13, 2013, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin–largely through the “Stand-Your-Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the Florida legislature.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • In 2012, the NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, said the NRA was “all in” to defeat Barack Obama.  Yet the President has meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto trains.  Since becoming Chief Executive, he has made no effort to curb gun violence.
  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  It expired in 2004. The NRA–aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally–easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a,Tucson, Arizona, grocery store.  Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass.  The total number of victims: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” says Spitzer.  “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.”
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.”  This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections.  This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA has long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA–an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the O.K. Corral.

So what should the surviving victims of gun violence do to seek redress?  And how can the relatives and friends of those who don’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

TRAYVON’S REAL KILLER: THE NRA (PART ONE OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 29, 2013 at 12:05 am

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

By December, the power of the Taliban was broken–and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than ten years, the United States–through its global military and espionage networks–has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan–and shot him dead.

Now, consider these statistics of death, supplied by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Every day–365 days a year

  • 270 people in America, 47 of them children and teens, are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents and police intervention;
  • 87 people die from gun violence, 33 of them murdered;
  • 8 children and teens die from gun violence;
  • 183 people are shot, but survive their gun injuries;
  • 38 children and teens are shot, but survive their gun injuries.

And what does all of this add up to?

  • In one year, almost 100,000 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents, or by police intervention.
  • Over a million Americans have been killed with guns since 1968, when Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
  • U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates.  The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher.
  • Gun violence impacts society in numerous ways: medical costs; costs of the criminal justice system; security precautions; and reductions in quality of life owing to fear of gun violence.
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.

(This average annual estimated composite picture of gun violence is based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

The National Rifle Association, of course.

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.

Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA endorsements–and campaign contributions.

Wayne La Pierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

At the time Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.  Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 68 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into thermonuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces–Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS–are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies–such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration–can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

  • 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 and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “Stand-Your-Ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defence, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • The NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him to death.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.
  • The same “Stand-Your-Ground” law will play a major role in the coming trial of Michael Dunn, a white software engineer, for the first-degree murder of Jordan Davis.  The shooting occurred on November 23, 2012, in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Dunn claimed that he argued with three young black men over the volume of their music in their SUV.  He said that he saw a shotgun appear in one of the SUV’s windows and he fired his handgun eight or nine times before fleeing.
  • Three of Dunn’s bullets killed Davis.  Police said that the men in the SUV were unarmed.

A REALILSTIC WAY TO CURB GUN VIOLENCE

In Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 12, 2013 at 12:00 am

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

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

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

What should the surviving victims of gun-massacres do to seek redress?

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

Two things:

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

Politicians–with rare exceptions–have only two goals:

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

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

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

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

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

Second, those who survive such massacres–and the relatives and friends of those who don’t–should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

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

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

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GUNS + MENTAL ILLNESS = TRAGEDY, NOT THERAPY

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics on February 6, 2013 at 12:00 am

Chris Kyle was an American patriot–serving four tours of duty in Iraq.

He was a warrior’s warrior–a member of the elite U.S. Navy SEALS.

He was a killer: From 1999 to 2009 he recorded more than 160 confirmed kills as a sniper–the most in U.S. military history.  Iraqis came to refer to him as “The Devil” and put a $20,000 bounty on his life.

He was an expert on firearms:  After leaving combat duty, he became the chief instructor for training the Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper team.  And he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual.

He was a successful writer–author of the 2012 bestselling American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. 

He created a nonprofit company, FITCO Cares, to provide at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

And he was a mentor to veterans suffering from PTSD–Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was this last activity–and, more importantly, his approach to therapy–that cost him his life.

On February 2, an Iraq War veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD turned a semi-automatic pistol on Chris Kyle and Kyle’s friend, Chad Littlefield, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.

The accused murderer is Eddie Ray Routh, of Lancaster, Texas.  Routh, a corporal in the Marines, was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.

Police later found the murder weapon at his home.

Routh is being held on one charge of capital murder and two charges of murder.

It was apparently Kyle’s belief that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said that Routh’s mother “may have reached out to Mr. Kyle to try to help her son.

“We kind of have an idea that maybe that’s why they were at the range for some type of therapy that Mr. Kyle assists people with. And I don’t know if it’s called shooting therapy, I don’t have any idea.”

According to Travis Cox, the director of FITCO Cares: “What I know is Chris and a gentleman–great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield–took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand, and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them.”

The National Rifle Association has taken a stance on firearms that can only be described as: “The more guns, the better.”

The NRA:

  • Opposes any background checks for firearms owners.
  • Opposes any waiting period for the purchase of a firearm. 
  • Opposes laws banning the ownership of military-style, “high-capacity” firearms.
  • Opposes any limits on how many firearms a person may own.
  • Pushes legislation to allow virtually anyone to carry a handgun–openly or concealed, even in bars and churches.
  • Is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” laws now in effect in more than half the states.  These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to try to retreat first.
  • 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.
  • Has repeatedly asserted that if more Americans knew the joys of firearm ownership they would just as fervently resist any attempt at controlling the spread of firearms.

Chris Kyle was undoubtedly one of the foremost experts on firearms in the United States. Few knew better than he did the rules for safe gun-handling.

And yet he broke perhaps the most basic commonsense rule of all: Never trust an unstable person with a loaded firearm.

And it was the breaking of that rule that killed him.

Kyle, who was 38, is survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children.

Certainly only praise can be lavished on Kyle for his generous efforts to help his fellow veterans suffering from PTSD.

But, equally certainly, there were other–and far safer–forms of help that he could have offered–such as:

  • Urging Routh to get psychiatric counseling.
  • Suggesting that he find purpose in a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, which is devoted to building  affordable housing for the poor.
  • Helping him find mental healthcare through the Veterans Administration.

Instead, he chose “gun therapy” as his preferred method of treatment.

Kyle almost certainly knew he was dealing with a mentally unstable person.

Yet he chose to place himself in close proximity to such a man.  And to take him to a shooting range where the discharge of firearms is expected.

Kyle was an expert on using firearms in self-defense.  But that knowledge proved useless when he allowed his empathy to overrule his common sense.

And this, in turn, raises yet another question for the NRA to answer: If a certified weapons expert can’t protect himself against a psychopathic gunman, how can the rest of us?

NRA: THE ASSASSINS LOBBY – PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Politics, Social commentary on July 27, 2012 at 8:45 am

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

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

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

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

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

Two things:

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

Politicians–with rare exceptions–have only two goals:

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

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

Consider Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

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

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

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

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

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

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

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

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

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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