Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page


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.


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?


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.


In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2013 at 11:58 am

On July 23, North Carolina lawmakers approved a bill that allows those with concealed-carry weapons permits:

  • To bring firearms into bars and restaurants serving alcohol–so long as the owner doesn’t object.
  • To store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public school or university.
  • To bring guns onto greenways, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.

The Republican-supported bill was approved by both the House and Senate.  It now heads to Republican Governor Pat McCrory, who is expected to sign it into law.

Now think:

  • You’re mixing high-octane alcohol with high-powered firearms.
  • You’re allowing weapons to be legally stored in parked cars–which can easily be broken into.
  • You’re allowing firearms to be brought onto playgrounds filled with children.

What could possibly go wrong?

The National Rifle Association (NRA)–which backed the measure–will celebrate a return to an era “when men were men” and every argument threatened to become a shootout.

But not everyone in the Old West welcomed the indiscriminate right to carry and use firearms within town.  One of those was the legendary lawman, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok.

Contrary to popular belief, Hickok actualy didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal.  His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years–1869 to 1871.

His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas.  As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men. One of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out.  On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon. Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another.

Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.  He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas.  This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.  And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys–most of them in their teens or early 20s–reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate.  Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid.  And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble.  One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night.  Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists.  And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the NRA.  And most of its members–if transported to the Old West–would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be–as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay.

Coe and Hickok had clashed before.  As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs.   A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.  The city fathers agreed.

Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, 1871, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time.  Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog–and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok, which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind.

Hickok whirled and fired twice more–into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table.  Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision:

First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point.  From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.


In Bureaucracy, Politics, Social commentary on July 24, 2013 at 12:00 am

San Bruno resident Sutchi Hui, 71, was visiting San Francisco when Death found him-–just before 8 a.m. on March 29, 2012.

No doubt he felt safe before he died.  After all, he was walking through a crosswalk in the affluent Castro District, one of the city’s safest areas.

And it was there that bicyclist Chris Bucchere plowed into him.

Bucchere, a software engineer, was also hospitalized for injuries in the crash. Later that day, he posted his thoughts about the accident to the Mission Cycling AM Riders Google group.

“I was already way too committed to stop.  The light turned red as I was cruising through the middle of the intersection and then, almost instantly, the southern crosswalk on Market and Castro filled up with people coming from both directions….so, in a nutshell, blammo.

“I couldn’t see a line through the crowd and I couldn’t stop, so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find.”

Bucchere said he lost consciousness and awoke five minutes later.  Someone told him that a 71-year-old injured pedestrian had been taken to the hospital.

“I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn’t mine,” Bucchere wrote. “I really hope he ends up OK.”

Bucchere dedicated the post to his helmet, which “died in heroic fashion today as my head slammed into the tarmac…. May she die knowing that because she committed the ultimate sacrifice, her rider can live on and ride on. Can I get an amen? Amen.”

An “amen” would also be in order for the cause of justice.

Although prosecuted by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, what Bucchere got was the following sentence: Three years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service.  He would not serve any jail time.

He might as well have posted that because his helmet made “the ultimate sacrifice, her rider can live on and ride on–and kill on.”

The District Attorney’s office–which has one of the worst conviction records in the country–lost no time in congratulating itself.

“Our goal is to send a message to cyclists about safety,” D.A. George Gascon said. “Just because you are riding a bicycle doesn’t mean all bets are off.  All of the rules of the road that apply to everyone else apply to you, too.”

Gascon said Hui’s family did not want to see Bucchere imprisoned.  Since prosecutors didn’t expect a judge to  sentence him to jail, they offered probation and community service in the plea deal.

That’s what the life of a pedestrian is worth in San Francisco.

In July, 2011, bicyclist Randolph Ang, 23, ran a red light on the Embarcadero–and slammed into 68-year-old Dionette Cherney. She later died of her injuries.

In March, 2012, Ang pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter, as part of an agreement with prosecutors.

Ang faced up to a year in county jail, but a judge sentenced him to three years’ probation and 500 hours of community service, and ordered him to pay $15,375 in restitution to the Cherney family.

According to the website of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:

“Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way. In the crosswalk or not, bike riders and drivers are required to yield to pedestrians.”

“Stay on the Streets.  It’s illegal and unsafe to ride on the sidewalk if you are over the age of 13.”

So much for the official version.

In reality, pedestrians risk their lives whenever they use the sidewalk–especially on tourist-crowded Market Street.

And what role do police play in enforcing the bike laws?  None.

At best, a San Francisco cop might stop an law-breaking bicyclist and give him a citation. This amounts to a bicycle traffic ticket. The bike isn’t confiscated.

Most cops patrol in patrol cars. If they see a bicyclist whizzing down a sidewalk, they aren’t going to cut him off and slap handcuffs on him.

If police show no interest in protecting pedestrians, it’s largely because the Mayor and Board of Supervisors clearly favor the rights of law-breaking bicyclists over those of law-abiding pedestrians and drivers.

The greatest proof of this comes on the last Friday of every month. It’s called Critical Mass.

In this event, hundreds of bicyclists deliberately–at the height of evening rush hour–overwhelm the streets of downtown San Francisco, bringing vehicular and pedestrian traffic to a halt.

Founded in 1992 in San Francisco, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formally stated but nevertheless clear: To protest against those who use cars and public transit–and intimidate their riders and pedestrians alike.

Critical Mass riders often use a tactic known as “corking” to maintain the cohesion of the group: A few riders block traffic from side roads so that the mass can race through red lights without interruption.

Cars, buses and pedestrians are expected to wait patiently for however long these self-indulgent thugs-on-bikes flood the streets.

In March, 2010, reports in local media claimed that then-Police Chief George Gascon was considering shutting down Critical Mass.

Three years later, the bike-thuggies continue to tie up traffic and threaten the safety of any pedestrians stupid enough to think they have a legal right to stroll sidewalks and cross streets.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2013 at 1:35 am

Since June 10, CNN has carried one story above all others: The trial of self-appointed “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

On CNN, especially, the coverage of this trial has been overwhelming.

So much so that CNN–Cable News Network–could rightly be called TNN–Trayvon News Network.

There are several reasons for this, and they say as much–if not more–about the media as they do about the case itself.

First, there was a dead body in the story–the body of Travon Martin.  There’s a well-known saying in the news business: “If it bleeds, it leads.”  And nothing bleeds like the body of a dead teenager.

Second, the victim was not only dead, he was black.

Third, he died at the hands of a nominally-white man–George Zimmerman, the offspring of a German father and a Peruvian mother.

Although the vast majority of blacks in the United States are murdered by other blacks, it’s Politically Incorrect to say so.  On the other hand, it’s perfectly OK to create the impression that whites pose the greatest danger to blacks.

George Zimmerman

Fourth, the trial was televised.  There was absolutely no need for this.  It didn’t threaten to overturn existing law–as did Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” public schools for blacks and whites.

This case proved the opening legal salvo in the history of the civil rights movement and ushered in a decade of activism and bloodshed as blacks sought to de-segregate the South.

Nor did the Zimmerman case even carry the weight of the 1985-6 Mafia Commission trial.  There Federal prosecutors convicted the heads of the five most powerful Mafia “families” in the country and sent them to prison.

While individual Mafiosi had been sent to prison, this was the first time the top leadership of all major Mafia “families” had been virtually wiped out.

It signaled a turning point in the fight against organized crime, with Federal investigators and prosecutors finally learning how to use the 10-year-old Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act to their advantage.

Fifth, televising the trial meant the networks–especially CNN–didn’t have to do anything.  They didn’t have to send reporters into the streets to dig up information.  All that was necessary was to let the camera show what was happening in the courtroom.

Sixth, when each day’s televised proceedings came to an end, CNN and other networks could easily round up a series of “talking heads” to pontificate on the meaning of it all. 

These people had no more idea than the average viewer of what impact–if any–that day’s events would have on the legal fate of George Zimmerman.

But it gave CNN a chance to use up airtime that could have otherwise gone on stories like the national debt, Detroit declaring bankruptcy and the Supreme Court rejecting an Arizona law requiring voters to prove their citizenship.

Seventh, the networks could count on a controversial outcome no matter what the verdict.

If Zimmerman were convicted, his white supporters would be outraged and his black detractors overjoyed.  And if Zimmerman were acquitted–which is what actually happened–then the opposite reactions would occur.

Either way, there was certain to be angry demonstrators in the street.  For the networks this would hopefully include a full replay of the race riots which shook the nation following the police beating of Rodney King in 1992 and the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.

Eighth, if rioting erupted, CNN and other networks would rush news cameras to the scenes of carnage and claim they were doing this “in the finest traditions of journalism” to keep the public fully informed.

In reality, they would be doing it to keep their ratings up.

If any of this seems familiar, it’s because–unfortunately–it is.

The 1995 O.J. Simpson trial set the standard for televised murder trials.

It came complete with a weak-kneed judge (Lance Ito), incompetent prosecutors (Christopher Darden and Marcia Clark), bizarre witnesses (Kato Kaelin) and grandstanding defense attorneys (Johnnie Cochran, F. Lee Bailey and Robert Kardashian).

The case seemed to go on forever.  The primary jury was sworn in on November 2, 1994.  Opening statements began on January 24, 1995, and the trial dragged on until a “Not Guilty” verdict came on October 3, 1995

For those who enjoy wallowing in sensationalism, the case offered everything:

  • Interracial marriage;
  • A famous has-been football player;
  • Sexually-charged domestic abuse (in this case, black-on-white/male-on-female violence);
  • A dead, beautiful blonde;
  • Two grisly murders (those of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole, and a waiter-friend of hers, Ronald Goldman);
  • Allegations by Simpson’s lawyers that he was the target of white, racist police.

Since then, television networks have repeatedly sought stories that promise to deliver the thrills–if not actual news value–of the Simpson case.

The George Zimmerman trial didn’t offer the ratings voltage of the Simpson one.  But the networks did their best to make it happen.


In Bureaucracy, Law, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2013 at 2:06 am

On July 13, the Texas Senate passed an anti-abortion bill that promotes unforn fetuses over the rights of adult women.

The bill was passed in a vote of 19-11.

The law:

  • Bans abortions 20 weeks after fertilization, four weeks earlier than the standard set by the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade.
  • Requires all clinics to become ambulatory surgical centers, even if they do not provide surgical abortions.
  • Requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals within 30 miles of the facility.
  • Allows abortions only in surgical centers.
  • Requires abortion providers to administer the abortion-inducing medication RU-486 in person, rather than allow women to take it at home.

Democrats countered that childbirth is more dangerous than abortion and there have been no serious problems with women taking abortion drugs at home. They introduced amendments to add exceptions for cases of rape and incest, and allow doctors more leeway in prescribing abortion-inducing drugs.

The right-wing Republican majority overruled these proposed changes–and sent the bill to rightist Republican Governor Rick Perry to sign into law.

On July 17, Planned Parenthood informed staffers that three of its facilities in Texas would be closing–a major goal of the legislation.

So what’s behind all this fetus fanaticism?

Several factors.

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag. Almost every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc. And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.

Second, many fetus fanatics are more than a little obsessed with sex. These are the same people who, in Victorian times, used “white meat” when ordering a chicken breast and “dark meat” when ordering a chicken thigh.

Third, many fetus fanatics are flat-out hypocrites. For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.

Fourth, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions-–especially if these resulted in pregnancy. And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did.

Fifth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals. On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.”

That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman. That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting an abortion-–even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Sixth, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women. They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

And what they hate most is the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control-–or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do.

They see this as a personal rejection. Perhaps it reminds many of them of their own failures in romance/marriage.

The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males. And many of these men would feel entirely at home with a Christianized version of the Taliban. They long for a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe.

The trouble for these men is they don’t speak Arabic.

Seventh, many leaders of the fetus-fanatics movement are independently wealthy. This means that even if abortion could be outlawed for the vast majority, they could always bribe a willing doctor-–here or abroad-–to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.

For them, there is always an escape clause.

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.” They totally oppose abortion under most-–if not all–-circumstances. But they also fully support capital punishment, going to war for almost any reason, wholesale massacres of wildlife and despoiling of the environment, and even nuclear war.

And many of those who fanatically defend the right of a fetus to emerge from the womb just as fanatically oppose welfare for those mothers who can’t support that newborn.

Ninth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have a moral duty to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians. These are the same people who condemn Muslims-–such as those in Saudi Arabia-–for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors-–loose, usually black robes.

But while they condemn Islamics for their general intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches. Or who belong to no church at all.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion. Thus, when Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 17, 2013 at 12:30 am

On July 15, a reporter at a White House press briefing asked Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney the following question:

Q    Well, tomorrow, Eric Holder, Kathleen Sebelius and Shaun Donovan will be in Florida addressing the NAACP, and one of the issues is on gun violence.

And according to the NAACP, black males ages 15 to 19 were eight times as likely as white males of the same age, and two and a half times as likely as their Hispanic peers, to be killed in gun-related homicides in 2009.  And Kathleen Sebelius, Eric Holder and Shaun Donovan will be addressing those issues.

What does the White House have to say, particularly as you can’t push forward gun legislation?

* * * * *

The clear implication within this question was that blacks were being routinely slaughtered by murderous whites.  But the actual statistics of crime say something very different.

Consider the following statistics released by the NYPD for “Crime and Enforcement Activity in New York City” in 2012.

Other Felony Sex Crimes Victims:

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

Known Other Felony Sex Crime Arrestees:

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

Robbery Victims:

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

Robbery Arrestees:

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

Felonious Assault Victims:

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

Felonious Assault Arrestees:

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

Grand Larceny Victims:

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

Grand Larceny Arrestees:

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

Shooting Victims:

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

Shooting Arrestees:

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

Drug Felony Arrest Population:

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

The Drug Misdemeanor Arrest Population

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

The Felony Stolen Property Arrest Population:

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

The Misdemeanor Stolen Property Arrest Population:

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

Violent Crime Suspects:

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

Reported Crime Complaint Juvenile Victims:

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

Juvenile Crime Complaint Arrestees:

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

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

                                                                 Total Numbers        Percentage of the City’s Population

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

During the first six months of 2012, 96% of shooting victims were blacks or Hispanics–and in 97% of all cases, the shooters were other blacks or Hispanics.

Blacks and Hispanics comprise 89% of murder victims–and 86% of murder suspects.  Of felony assault victims, 81% are non-whites, as are 88% of the suspects.

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

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

Blacks and their liberal allies have long claimed that the startling numbers of blacks arrested, convicted and incarcerated only prove that racist white cops, prosecutors and judges have rigged the system against them.

But this ignores a fundamental–and ugly–truth: The vast majority of victims of black criminals are other blacks.

But pretending that crime doesn’t flourish in black neighborhoods hasn’t stopped black criminals from preying on black victims.

Fortunately, several prominent black figures have dared to speak bluntly to the crisis of lawlessness within their own community.

One of these is Jesse Jackson.  Speaking at a meeting of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) in Chicago on November 27, 1993, Jackson famously said:

Jesse Jackson

“There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery.

“Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. After all we have been through.  Just to think we can’t walk down our own streets–how humiliating.”

During a 1998 interview on the PBS investigative series, Frontline, Jackson attacked the “criminal chic” style of dress that has become popular among young black men:

“Well, what does that style [wearing baggy britches or $200 Nike stringless tennis shoes] come from?  It comes from jail.

“That’s recycled jail culture, where they cannot wear belts because they may hang themselves or hurt themselves or hurt someone.  Or they can’t have strings in their tennis shoes.

“So when you find youth having jail culture recycled into them, it is almost as if you’re eating your own vomit.   It’s a kind of recycled sickness.”

Another prominent black who has dared to confront the realities of black criminality is comedian Bill Cosby.

Bill Cosby

Addressing the 20th National Action Network conference in April, 2011, Cosby didn’t mince words before his largely black audience:

“Tell me where Jesus would allow drug dealing on the corner?  Tell me where Jesus would allow people to shoot guns for no reason, missing and then hitting a child who is paralyzed for life?

“And we don’t do anything but have a funeral.  But let a cop shoot [a black man], and you set his car on fire and burn up the police stations.”


In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 16, 2013 at 12:01 am

During White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s press briefing on July 15, there occured this memorable exchange:

Q    Well, tomorrow, Eric Holder, Kathleen Sebelius and Shaun Donovan will be in Florida addressing the NAACP, and one of the issues is on gun violence.

And according to the NAACP, black males ages 15 to 19 were eight times as likely as white males of the same age, and two and a half times as likely as their Hispanic peers, to be killed in gun-related homicides in 2009. And Kathleen Sebelius, Eric Holder and Shaun Donovan will be addressing those issues.

What does the White House have to say, particularly as you can’t push forward gun legislation?

Jay Carney

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President has made clear his feelings about the failure of the Senate to act on common-sense [gun control] legislation that would have improved upon our background check system–legislation that has enormous support across the country, in blue states and purple states and red states, and that the Senate should have approved.

The fact of the matter is–and the President has spoken about this–he will continue to work with members of his administration to advance the cause of reducing gun violence, using the powers that the administration has, but will also continue to try to impress upon Congress the need to have Congress act on this important problem and to reflect the will of the American people when it comes to common-sense steps….

* * * * *

Okay, let’s focus on the core of the question itself: “According to the NAACP, black males ages 15 to 19 were eight times as likely as white males of the same age, and two and a half times as likely as their Hispanic peers, to be killed in gun-related homicides in 2009.

The question came up two days after self-appointed “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman was acquitted on July 13 of murdering 17-year-old Travon Martin.

Zimmerman’s ethnicity is half-German (on his father’s side) and half-Peruvian (on his mother’s).  Martin was black.

From the tone of the question, you’d think that that blacks were being slaughtered daily by whites.

In fact, the racial group most responsible for the murders of blacks is–other blacks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jones and Piagentini were the sixth and seventh policemen murdered so far that year [1971].  There would be three more….

“The identities of approximately 18 men involved in these murders became known to the police.  All were black.

“The city’s politicians refrained from pointing this out, and so did Commissioner Murphy.

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

“The overall racial breakdown of the city went approximately this way: whites, 63%; blacks, 20%; Hispanics 17%.”

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

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

That was 40 years ago.

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

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

Then follows this chart:

Misdemeanor Criminal Mischief
Victim, Suspect, Arrestee Race/Ethnicity                                                                  

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

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

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

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

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

Total Victims:      40,985       

Total Suspects:     11,356  

Total Arrests:         7,825

Consider the following statistics released by the NYPD for “Crime and Enforcement Activity in New York City” in 2012.

Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter Victims:

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

Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter Arrestees:

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

Rape Victims:

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

Rape Arrestees:

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


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 15, 2013 at 1:19 am

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

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

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

TSA Administrator John Pistole unveiled the proposal in March, saying that in these days of hardened cockpit doors, armed off-duty pilots traveling on planes and other preventive measures, small folding knives could not be used by terrorists to take over a plane.

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

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

The proposal would have permitted folding knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or less in length and are less than 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) wide. The aim was to allow passengers to carry pen knives, corkscrews with small blades and other knives.

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

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

In 2005, TSA said it would let passengers carry on small scissors, knitting needles, tweezers, nail clippers and up to four books of matches.  The agency began focusing on keeping explosives off planes, because intelligence officials believed that was the greatest threat to commercial aviation.

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

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

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

Consider the following incidents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But during 9/11, passengers and crew–with one exception–cooperated fully with the highjackers’ demands.  And all of them died horiffically when three of those jetliners were deliberately crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

World Trade Center under airplane attack

Only on United Flight 93 did the passengers and crew fight back. In doing so, they accomplished what security guards, soldiers, military pilots, the CIA and FBI could not: They thwarted the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives and preventing the fourth plane from destroying the White House or the Capital Building.

Memorial to the passengers and crew of United Flight 93

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

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